Lakeland University Blog

Honors class enriches students through food

Honors class enriches students through food


Honors class enriches students through food

This semester, Tayler Otten, a senior majoring in English and creative writing, is creating content for the Lakeland blog. This is the latest in a series of blog stories she’s written.

Last fall, Lakeland Associate Professor of Writing Jodie Mortag taught an experiential learning Honors Seminar class titled Food: Hunters, Gatherers, and Phone Tappers.

Mortag’s goal, as a mother of two young children of her own, was to help students to become more aware of the food they consume and explore the cultures and foods around them that they would otherwise never encounter or indulge in on their own.

To remain true to the experiential learning values of the Honors Program, Mortag engaged her students in thought-provoking and engaging experiences within the Sheboygan County area. To teach her students the communal properties of food, Mortag looked to the community. The regular field trips did not disappoint in their lessons.

“Food brings communities together, and I witnessed this first-hand,” Mortag said. “A student peeling and chopping his first clove of garlic to add to a class-made chili at Nourish Farms, another student in awe as he peered into the milking parlor at Saxon Homestead, students hiking single file in the thick snow covered woods outside of Kiel examining deer rubs, and an entire class ‘wowing’ at the stat from the director of Fresh Meals on Wheels regarding their impact on the community beyond providing meals: ‘We decrease feelings of loneliness and depression by 85%.’”

Each trip as a class enabled the students to delve deeper into their own relationship with food. After reading student reflections the first week of class, Mortag recognized that some students had a strained relationship with food. Her goal was to show each of her students how food can be a more intimate experience when it is a labor of love instead of a simple trip to the store.

“Not only were we learning about food,” Mortag said, “we were re-working our relationship with it: ‘hunting’ turned to ‘harvesting,’ ‘fat’ turned to ‘fit,’ ‘diet’ turned to ‘do not.’”

Mortag challenged her students to guide their own learning and explore topics in food that interested them. In the end, they created their own learning experience. As a class, they decided how to tackle their student-led service learning project: the garden at Lakeland.

After learning the in’s and out’s of gardening and harvesting throughout the course of the semester, the students came together to rejuvenate Lakeland’s garden, located to the west of the Younger Family Campus Center. The project involved manual labor to revitalize the garden, collaboration with Lakeland dining services and the LU grounds crew and creating a Garden Club to maintain the garden.

Student Montana Zdroik enjoyed the way the class engaged students with the broader community.

“The class taught me that there are so many different impacts that food has on a community,” Zdroik said. “From the relationships it creates between community members to the quality of how food is grown and distributed.”

The honors class provided students with long-lasting lessons that not only shaped their relationships with food, but also their community. As they worked together, they became a family of food enthusiasts, thinking in terms of hunters and gatherers.

Student Sarah Stege advised students to jump at the chance to get involved in a future offering of Mortag’s class.

“This class is no melt-in-your mouth wafer or Jello,” Stege said. “It requires you to chew the material and think about its texture. You will ruminate on food and its history, how it got to your mouth and the people who grew, raised or hunted it.”

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