By Shelby Olson
Photo by the author
Grow Green and Learn Italian is a course offered by FUA’s School of Italian Studies and Linguistics but it is also cross listed with Sustainable Development, General Horticulture, and Environmental Studies. The Grow Green course allows students to learn about the environment while interacting with the Italian language and culture. Grow Green differs from a grammar-heavy class because lessons take place throughout Florence so students are able to interact with both classmates and locals while gaining knowledge about the language and environment.
Prof. Martina Ghiandelli, who taught the recently concluded Summer 2017 course edition, offers interesting insight on how the course connects students to the surrounding environment. She has had the opportunity to see students benefitting from this course because the students use the green spaces of Florence as their classroom including gardens, markets, and public parks. When students are in the field, they must record themselves speaking in Italian such as going to a market and pointing out specific green products or interacting with their classmates and native Italian speakers.
During each lesson, the class topic is introduced and reinforced by a new set of vocabulary and a specific place in Florence. This summer, one lesson in particular focused on the 16th century Orto Botanico garden where they learned about herbs and medicinal plants. Students also had the opportunity to go to the Orti Dipinti community garden and crush their own herbs. During the visit, they were able to point out the names and flavors of aromatic herbs due to the vocabulary words they had learned prior. The course also looked at markets throughout Florence where they learned how to ask questions relating to cost, purchasing, and ordering produce. They also had the chance to look at how markets interact with restaurants including Ganzo, the restaurant operated by FUA students. Another lesson focused on parks and the students had a chance to visit the Cascine park to learn about the historic usage because it was the hunting estate for the Medici family. Students also learned the names of hunting and fishing species in correlation to the park’s Medicean history, contrasted to the sport and hobby activities that take place in the park today.
Grow Green allows students to gain environmental consciousness while also engaging with the Italian language and culture. Students must grow and take care of their own plants to cultivate time management and responsibility as well as the importance for the environment. Students also volunteer at local gardens to increase their knowledge of the current environment while learning about the history of gardens in Florence. All of these interactive lessons are what make this course successful in teaching students environmental issues while gaining the ability to connect with the Italian culture.
Future editions of the course at FUA can be consulted at the academic schedule of courses.