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LAND WALKS for K-12: Homeschooling & Remote Learning in the 2020-21 pandemic

I’m wondering if the idea of regular LAND WALKS for Evanston students would relieve some of the stress that the pandemic is putting on everyone—parents, teachers, administrators, and students themselves? This proposal is addressed to my community of 43 years–Evanston, Illinois–but I think it could be useful for every U.S. community, family, school district, etc. Just substitute the name of your town and see if it fits.

If you want to experience a LAND WALK before reading more, watch this 6-minute video on an Iowa farm.
Climate Land Leaders: Land Walk 
Although this farm is 450 acres, the basic idea of a LAND WALK can be applied to any place—large, small; rural, urban, suburban—for any purpose. LAND WALKS can even be done inside—in your home (house, apartment), an office, etc.

NOTE: The idea of the Land Walk in this video came from Ecological Design, a woman-owned permaculture design and land planning company in the Midwest. Teresa Opheim of Main Street Project (Northfield, MN) did the filming.

The basic purpose of LAND WALKS during the pandemic would be for students 
—to be outside as much as possible (yes, even in winter)
—do self-directed learning (both outside & inside)
—document local reality: students’ homes, neighborhood, parks, community, commercial areas, etc. through the lens of basic survival needs (food, water, air, clothing, housing, etc.)
—connect various topics: biology (plants, animals, etc.); weather; public health (pollution, poisons, etc.); architecture; history; mathematics (arithmetic, geometry, etc.); foreign language; culture; religion; ??
—aggregate data across Evanston: block by block, ward by ward, school-wide, City-wide, etc.
—aggregate data across topics: food security, climate resilience, stormwater management, environmental justice, etc.

Where will we be in June 2021–schooling-wise, mental health-wise, climate-wise?
What’s really interesting is that, given the number of students in Evanston and Evanston’s relatively small area (7.8 square miles), we could have an amazing set of raw data about Evanston by the end of this school year (June 2021). This data could be used in a variety of ways, including public policy decisions, grassroots organizing, even creating “clubs” or affinity groups for further exploration of the “Land of Evanston” — also known as the lands of the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Peoria, Bodéwadmiakiwen (Potawatomi), Myaamia, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (according to — they recommend confirming locally).

LAND WALK resources for Evanston students
Below are some hyper-current & hyper-related resources that might inspire students, etc., starting with the recently posted LAND WALK (on a 450-acre Iowa farm) that made me think of using it pedagogically in Evanston (and other urban areas). The 6-minute video describes the basics of a LAND WALK.

If anyone tries this out with your children and/or students, I’d appreciate any reports, thoughts, etc. Maybe some classes are already doing something like this?

Perhaps we can figure out how to post each student’s LAND WALK(s) onto a composite website, available to the public.

during 2020-21 pandemic

Reduce stress + keep learning alive through local mapping projects

1. LAND WALK template
a. Climate Land Leaders: Land Walk with Bouska Sisters (6:46 minutes)
One of the national food & farm listservs recently posted this short video of two middle-aged sisters doing a “land walk” on their 450-acre Iowa farm—a farm that they inherited from their parents. They plan to do a land walk regularly to get familiar with all the details of their farm—the soil type, water source, animal burrows, windy areas, trees, crops, weeds, compacted areas, etc.—and to see how things change over time (or stay the same).

b.  GATHER: The fight to revitalize our native foodways
Land walks from a Native American perspective
Trailer + registration (free) 

Documentary film + panel discussion
Nov. 23, 2020 (Monday), 5:00 PM CST

New and hyper-current. Co-hosted by a colleague, Anna Lappe, Real Food Media (the daughter of Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet — the book is 50 years old this year!).

Film homepage

Interactive website by wildlife biologist Renata Pitman (mother of 2 Evanston schoolchildren)
Post your own observations — birds, plants, animals, insects, etc.

“Celebrating Indigenous Youth” awards ceremony
Nov. 19, 2020 (event starts at the 6:00 min. mark)

—16:00  Award to Chicago 5th grader Aydrian James Day for his art activities (beading, quilling, painting, dancing, singing, etc.)
—20:00  Award to Homewood-Flossmoor H.S. sophomore Nzhoni Ward for service & philanthropy: project is making ribbon skirts, face masks, etc., for students all over U.S.
—24:00  Award to Autumn Peltier, 16 years old water activist, including women’s water ceremonies and water walks
— 29:00  Keynote lecture by Autumn Peltier: Light-bulb moment at 8 years old, started researching oil refineries’ impact on her community’s water supply. Her aunt started water walks. “When I’m a grandmother, will we have clean water?”

already doing hands-on learning re land, natural resources, basic survival

a.  SAGE 
Evanston school garden coordinators
Evanston Environmental Assn.

b.  Pipes & Precipitation
stormwater curriculum for Dist. 65 and Chicago

c.  National Farm to School Network
A national organization started by a Buffalo Grove woman, Anupama Joshi.
3-pronged program
—good fresh food in cafeteria
—school gardens (Dawes, Dewey, Kingsley, etc.) or working farms (e.g., Edible Acre PIlot Project at ETHS)
—food systems curriculum in every grade K-12 (and now Early Childhood)

Illinois Farm to School Coordinator is based in Oak Park (at Seven Generations Ahead).

d. Nature’s Farm Camp (northeast Illinois)
Founded by Tim Magner, a Winnetka native and Chicago resident.
Primarily an overnight camp, but now doing all kinds of remote activities, in partnership with Angelic Organics Learning Center (one of the best Food + Farms + Education organization we have in Illinois, maybe the Midwest).

5. OTHER EVANSTON RESOURCES: Land, Survival, Local Knowledge

a. Citizens Greener Evanston
EcoHub map of “green” projects, businesses, etc.

b. Food, Farms, Democracy
Blogs and other resources by Debbie Hillman
Evanston resident for 43 years, retired professional gardener
— LEAVE THE LEAVES: Urban Soils, Urban Consciousness
— “Calling the cops on the cops”: 1980s Evanston, IL — 2020 USA
— Reinventing Cooperative Extension: Partner with Local Public Libraries
— REGENERATION MIDWEST: 25% of Land, People, and U.S. Political Power?

c.  Boyscouts?  Annual walk around perimeter of Evanston?
When my daughter was growing up in Evanston we went to the beach a lot. One summer day (1980s), a troop of Boyscouts came marching along the water’s edge in full uniform (shorts). They looked so purposeful, I had to ask what they were doing.  As many parents probably know, the Evanston boyscouts had a tradition of walking the perimeter of the entire City of Evanston in one day. I can’t remember how long it took, but I’m pretty sure it was a full day project. Wondering if the Boyscouts still do this kind of Land Walk?