By Sarah Martinez
As a fourth-year nutrition major at SJSU, Justin Chan volunteers his time during and after school teaching grade-school children about the importance of nutrition and garden education.
Justin is a student intern for one of CommUniverCity’s Growing Sustainably programs. Within Santa Clara County, 25% of children were categorized as overweight or obese in 2016. The Garden Education and Garden Club aims to cut childhood obesity rates by creating hands-on, interactive lessons taught by SJSU students.
What started out as simply fulfilling a graduation requirement, turned into a rewarding experience for Justin. His desire to educate his community and inspire the future generation brought him back for another semester.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but it ended up becoming something I really enjoyed so that’s why I’m here again for a second semester,” said Justin. “I was here to gain experience, but I actually learned a lot.”
Teaching was a brand new experience for Justin, but he was able to rely on his training and previous lesson plans for guidance. Justin along with his fellow intern John, taught all they could about gardening, parts of the plant and nutrients before deciding to develop a new lesson plan geared towards the bigger picture.
“[John and I] talked about emissions and how certain harmful chemicals come into the air and can produce acid rain. It wasn’t done before. We wanted to come up with something different, so we taught about the bigger picture like the ecosystem,” said Justin.
The most memorable moments for Justin were seeing how eager his students were to learn every time he came in.
“I was actually really nervous teaching for the first time, but them wanting to learn and participate whether it was planting seeds or digging [helped],” said Justin. “Whatever role they had they were eager to do.”
During Justin’s last day, he reflected with his students about everything they learned throughout the semester. Even though Justin was only with them for a short period of time, he hopes he gave them the tools to better their communities.
“Hopefully in the future, [this] influences [them] to do this on a bigger scale,” said Justin. “Because it starts here; it starts at McKinley or at Horace Mann.”
This semester the Growing Sustainably programs are set to extend from six to seven weeks, includes a field trip to Veggielution Community Farm and new lesson plans focused around composting.
“This was a great opportunity to participate in. No matter who you are, where you are from if you decide to join the program it’s definitely beneficial,” said Justin. “ When you’re working with kids or your peers you learn something everyday. I feel like no one is ever too experienced or inexperienced to participate.”
The Growing Sustainably Program is made possible by grants from the Open Space Authority and the City of San Jose.