Geitmyra – Food Education in Norway

I know you’re not supposed to mix business and pleasure, but I just can’t help it.  Since my job is my passion, I end up finding work-related things where ever I go.  On this particular trip, I went to Estonia (where my grandparents are all from), Norway (where I studied for 2 years) and Sweden (where I studied for 6 months and the country that has continued to draw me back for 20+ years).  Lots of family and friends to see in all of these places, which was lovely.  But yes, also a wee bit of “business” while in Oslo.

A few weeks before heading on my trip to Northern Europe, I stumbled upon an article about an amazing new food education centre for children in Oslo.  Of course I decided to get in touch with them and see if I could visit while I was there.  They were very welcoming, and invited me to come over for a chat and a little tour.

The entrance to Geitmyra food education centre

Geitmyra is a little old farm in the middle of Oslo, originally from the 1700s.  The property is owned by the city, but the city didn’t really know what to do with it any more.  So they opened up a competition looking for proposals.  The winner was Andreas Viestad, a well-known Norwegian chef, who then started an NGO to run a children’s food education centre.   They now have a long-term lease with the city and have a number of government and corporate sponsors.  Since the buildings are so old, they’re in the process of fixing them up, but they already have a wonderful kid-friendly kitchen facility, a classroom, and some office space.  Part of the deal with the city was that whoever won the competition would have to live on-site, so Andreas Viestad lives and gardens on the property.  They also have a bunch of above-ground planter boxes that they use in their programming, and a garden-plot in a nearby community garden.

The kitchen building and planter boxes (with lots of kale!)

The community garden where Geitmyra has a garden plot

They run a few different food/cooking/gardening programs, primarily for kids.  When I visited, they were running a pilot program for grade 6 students, who spend 4 days there (Monday to Thursday).  (So far at least, it’s only for students from Oslo, as the students go home at night.)  In these four days, they work through a food workbook together with the instructors.  The workbook/program includes recipes which they prepare together, lessons about different foods and nutrients, visits to the garden to harvest ingredients….  Then for the Friday (when they are back at school), the students are given a challenge of preparing their own healthy bagged lunch to bring from home, based on what they have learned during the week, which they then present to the class.

At Geitmyra, they also run a variety of other programs.  They have courses and programs for school groups of all ages as well as for kindergartens/daycares, they have after-school and school break programs, family programs, and occasional adult workshops (though they really try to stick to their kid-centred programming).  They have all sorts of workshops and lessons, such as taste-testing (or smell-testing), multicultural food, making home-made yogurt and margarine, composting, and so on.

Kid-friendly, movable kitchen counter, with built-in stovetop. Amazing!

They also run special events in different seasons.  In the fall, they had an apple festival, with tastings, cider pressing, baking…  Before Christmas, they had a Christmas sausage workshop, where families could take part in preparing traditional Norwegian Christmas sausages, or experiment with new flavours.  (They also prepared lomper, which are sort of like the Scandinavian equivalent of tortillas made mostly of potatoes, which Norwegians usually eat sausages with.  The kids could also make their own ketchup and mustard to go with the sausages.)

Just a small sampling of the tons of curly kale growing at Geitmyra

When I visited, I had a nice conversation with Lene, Geitmyra’s manager. I told her about what I do with my school garden programs, and when I told her that we make kale chips, she was intrigued and excited.  They’ve got tons of curly kale growing in their planter boxes, and since it was basically the only thing still growing in November, she was pretty interested in getting a new recipe for using it. We talked about how amazing it is to watch kids eat amazing healthy food that they’ve prepared themselves.  She said there are rarely any leftovers from the meals the kids make, even if they kids were somewhat skeptical about the meals before they started.  Another thing we talked about was local food and seasonality, and how it’s great to see kids starting to understand those concepts.  She also told me that in the fall, her father had been out hunting, and brought her a moose heart to show the kids.  That had sparked a good conversation about how the heart is a muscle, as is all meat.  And also sparked some curiosity and skepticism (as can be see on this photo from Geitmyra’s blog).  Lene also gave me a copy of the grade 6 workbook that they use, which has some good lesson plans, recipes and inspiration.  The Geitmyra website also has a number of good lesson plans (only in Norwegian, though).

A super great and inspiring visit – always great to chat with people with similar interests and goals and to see such amazing food programming in action!  Takk, Lene, og de andre på Geitmyra!

Happy growing!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Wow, I could have written that 🙂 Exactly the same feelings and experiencies after visiting Geitmyra last October. Unfortunately we don’t have anything like Geitmyra in Finland… I’m a teacher in Sapere, where you experience the food with all your senses and all kids love the lessons!

    Reply

    • Thanks for reading and writing! 🙂 Do you teach about food/gardening specifically, or do you bring it into your “regular” classroom lessons? (Oh, I just saw the link to your blog – I’ll check that out! I’m glad it’s in Swedish, not Finnish – then I can read it 🙂 )

      Reply

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