This past summer, at the BART Summer Symposium, I went to a great presentation about a middle-school ESL unit on the treatment of migrant farmworkers. One of the presenters just published an article on this in the Fall 2012 issue of eJournal of Literacy and Social Responsibility. It starts on page 158.
Students began by learning about the treatment of migrant farmworkers. They read the book First Day in Grapes and watched the film The Harvest / La Cosecha. The also explored the websites of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Student/Farmworker Alliance. Later, members of these two organizations visited the class and spoke with the students. In terms of language instruction, the unit focused on persuasive writing skills, culminating in students writing letters to a supermarket chain advocating for a one cent increase on the per pound price of tomatoes.
This presentation was a real eye-opener for me. Until I attended this session, I hadn’t known that agriculture in America legally permitted child labor. Elements of this unit would be a great addition to lessons on food. While they might be especially meaningful in communities where the treatment of migrant farmworkers is a local issue, I think they would be relevant anywhere.