A trip to Nicaragua via the Botanic Garden

If children get the opportunity to see and smell the plants and food products of another country, and try their hands at cooking the food, it really brings the global dimension to life.

One April, 360 pupils from six Leicester primary schools found out what it is like to live and work in Nicaragua. Starting the day in school, Miguel took them on an illustrated tour of Masaya, Leicester’s twin city, to glimpse the dramatic landscape, visit the local market and hear about traditional foods and Masaya’s rich cultural and artistic heritage.

Visiting the Botanic Garden
Visiting the Botanic Garden

Case studies highlighting the challenges and prospects experienced by small-scale producers were used to describe life in rural Masaya where people depend on the land to feed their families. Pupils saw how Miguel’s aunt has built a water tank to store water so she can irrigate her crops in the dry season, growing maize, beans and a variety of fruits and vegetables to supplement the family income and buy school uniforms.

The pupils then travelled to the Botanic Garden and visited the greenhouses to see for themselves how the various plants that are found in Nicaragua grow – from bananas, pineapples, maize, coffee and rice to aloe vera and cotton. Greatly excited by the prospect of working ‘in role’, they participated in realistic hands-on activities to explore the different stages of taking produce from the farmer’s field to the market place.

Making food from another country
Making food from another country

Maize farmers planted and harvested the corn, millers ground the kernels and sold the maize flour to the cooks who turned it into ‘tortillas’. Another group prepared pineapples, melons and oranges to make refreshing fruit drinks known as ‘Frescos’. In the crafts area, artisans made and decorated cotton bags used to keep ‘tortillas’ warm, others designed necklaces and bracelets using seeds and wooden beads. A small group formed a co-operative working with the plants in the garden to produce herbal remedies familiar in Nicaragua.

In an elaborate recreation of Masaya’s bustling market, the many products and artefacts made from plants were sold to stall holders who haggled to get the best prices from their suppliers and customers, bringing the realities of the local economy to life.

The concept of international trade was introduced in a series of follow-up activities with the education officer from Just (Leicester’s fair-trade shop). Tracking a bunch of bananas on its journey from Nicaragua to Leicester, pupils witnessed the impact of world trade and considered how producers’ lives can be improved by fair-trade schemes. Pupils participated in a fair trade breakfast provided by the Midlands Co-op, to get a ‘taste’ of how fair trade works in practice and how they can act as ethical consumers.

The project concluded with an assembly in which pupils shared their learning with the rest of the school, using posters and examples of artefacts and produce to put their local lives into a global context and illustrate how people and places are interrelated.

Find out more

Leicester Masaya Link Group: Leicester Masaya Link Group

Leicester Botanic Garden: Leicester Botanic Garden

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