Interview with Sonja Tosteson. Our Education & Training Instructor

Posted on April 25, 2016 5:24 pm by Active Citizen in Uncategorized

What brought you to Project EATS?

I have a deep passion for food justice issues. While teaching in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, I researched food distribution and was shocked at the discrepancies in the availability of fresh produce from one

neighborhood to the next. The community-based work of Project Eats is incredible; it both educates and empowers communities to make real changes in the food system of their neighborhood. I am pursuing a career in Environmental Education with an emphasis on urban agriculture, and Project Eats is an incredible part of that journey.

How did you end up in New York City?

I road-tripped! I packed up my things in Minnesota and drove out solo, stopping along the way to visit friends near Cleveland. I had visited NYC twice before and fell in love with the energy, artistry, and spectrum of flavors.

What’s your favorite thing to eat?

Melted cheese. Grilled cheese. Quesadillas. Breakfast Sandwiches. Cheesy chips. Nachos. This is the song that never ends…

What’s most satisfying about teaching?

I love that teaching is ever-changing, constantly introducing new connections and challenges. Likewise, it is incredible to see the light bulbs turn on as I help students work through problems. I also enjoy showing students that learning is fun! I give context to subject matter by connecting it to my students’ daily lives.

How do you find teaching different here than other places you’ve taught?

Previous to Project EATS, I taught in a national park. I took students on excursions through the woods and meadow and around the pond, measuring watershed characteristics, identifying creatures in the water, and testing river water quality. At Project EATS, I teach mainly in the classroom. It’s been a fun challenge to figure out how to bring the wonder of the natural world into an indoor space, creating hands-on lessons that are at once exciting, academic and relevant to students.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

I love to garden, although I don’t have much space. Right now my crops consist of basil seeds sprouting up from two reused egg cartons. Someday I hope to have a yard and use my background in landscape architecture to transform it into an urban agriculture learning space!

What’s your funniest classroom story?

While I was leading a class about pond macro-invertebrates, a student got her shoes stuck in the mud. I tried to yank them out but ended up falling and getting covered in delicious mud!

Describe your teaching style?

Hands-on. Student interest surges when they can scoop up bugs in the pond, plant and nurture seedlings or design and model an eco-friendly building with reused materials. I love science and bring that energy into my classes.

What’s something your students would be surprised to know about you?

I miss the days before cell phones. I feel free when I go out and leave it behind.

Any advice for students who want to find out more about urban farming?

Hahahaha! Where to begin? It’s an amazing field that brings so much joy. Be prepared to work hard, learn constantly, have fun and savor the most delicious produce you’ve ever tasted!