It is more than just food: A practice-as-research approach to teaching experiential learning courses through the lens of food

Plan Author

  • Krystal Graybeal, 2017

Fields of Concentration

  • Environmental Studies

Sample Courses

Project Description

Teaching the counterculture: A beginner’s guide to facilitating a hands-on food revolution at the community level.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Jean O’Hara
  • Jennifer Ramstetter

Outside Evaluator

  • Larkspur Morton, Expedition Education Institute


This volume of work is an attempt to create a resource I would have found beneficial as I prepared to teach my first course, while also serving as a vehicle for reflection on my own skills, strengths and needs as an instructor. It is divided into three main pieces: An introduction, through the lens of personal experience, to foundational pedagogies and frameworks within Food Studies and Experiential Learning, and existing conditions within conventional American education; a guidebook for other community-level instructors of food- centric Experiential Learning (including syllabus, lesson plans and additional resources), and; a proposal for a Kitchen Equipment Lending Library.


Food is multifaceted, connected to multiple issues—ethical, environmental, nutritional and political; as I write this, Venezuelan citizens riot for subsidized rations and resort to black- market food purchases from the government sworn to grant its people equitable access to food and other resources. The future of food security in the United States is frighteningly uncertain as well. The Farm Bill, with its many complicated and far-reaching implications, is up for review in 2018 by one of the wealthiest, most conservative and least qualified administrations in our history. Federally funded programs, such as Women Infants and Children (WIC), The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CFSP) and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which provide essential nutritional support and guidance for families, children, elders and other individuals below the poverty line, are just a few examples of the benefits at risk of being cut. Ironically, those whose lives depend on such benefits are often those most exploited within the global food system.

Though it was somewhat daunting and discombobulating at first, I have come to find this broadly-defined field of Food Studies a great source of excitement. With endless avenues for Experiential Learning to explore within it, and a diverse community of like-minded educators in the region (and no doubt, nationwide), I see countless opportunities to share my enthusiasm for a beloved topic, without imposing myself on students. Experiential Learning through the lens of food together provide the perfect platform for me to fully exist with my students through communication, dialogue and side-by-side collaboration and exploration. I believe I met my initial goal of challenging some of the wounding practices within conventional classrooms through the Friere’s suggestion of modeling of a trusting teaching and learning exchange between instructors and students.


I remember disbelief at being able to dedicate so much of my energy and attention to a tangible project I cared deeply about, mixed with somewhat regular episodes of panic and overwhelm. You truly can study whatever your heart desires at Marlboro, but be prepared to earn that privilege. Self-directed learning means just that, which can come as a bit of a nasty shock for those of us who were shuffled through the conventional American School system.

I remember snowy mornings and sleepless nights spent by my favorite window at the library, endless cups of tea and endless editing. I remember hiding in Brattleboro, binging on cartoons and junk food with other weary students. I remember being held up and pushed by my Plan sponsors to keep working through academic and personal turmoil. And I remember, after the last of us had mailed, sitting around the table at the celebratory dinner. We, a packed table of inspiring, powerful women bolstered, comforted and celebrated each other. What better encouragement than to hear of the many complicated, diverse lives your faculty mentors had led before settling into Marlboro.