Physically and Spiritually Strengthening Students in South Korea, by Wonsun Jini Eum
The term ‘English Village’ may be new to the people living in the West, but here in South Korea, our extraordinary passion for English education has been incorporated into our curriculum for years. Incheon English Village (ICEV) was founded in 2006 to teach Korean citizens English within real-life settings. ICEV sits on a 16-acre campus and is composed of 100 teachers and staff, including 30 native speakers representing six different English-speaking nations.
We run three gardens on the ICEV campus. Small gardens are about 33m² and our big one is about 200m². Small gardens are used by our kindergarten “Eco-English School” and the big garden is used by elementary and junior high school students. In the small gardens, we grow tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and mostly small vegetables. In the big garden, we grow lettuce, Korean cabbage, Korean peppers, and corn. While we do have professional gardeners and landscapers on our campus who consistently manage our gardens, our students visit and work the plots on a weekly basis. And on the island of Ganghwa, which is about 30 minutes from ICEV, we have a 24-acre satellite campus called Loy’s Garden, named after our founder, Dr. Lee. Loy’s Garden is a program of the Global Edu Foundation (which also runs ICEV) and is maintained and managed by one of our schools, called Incheon Culture and Art College (ICAC). Students at ICAC not only grow and manage their plants and vegetables but they use them in recipes as well. We greatly value having such farms and gardens, so that we can provide our students with a meaningful garden education.
ICEV’s education is about teaching English through a language immersion program. Students act out dialogues rather than memorize rules – our approach fosters connection between formal education and the natural world. More than 100,000 students have had English education at ICEV since its opening, and our language education program has been replicated in multiple schools in the East Asian region.
As the first program in Asia to join edibleschoolyard.org, ICEV is extremely interested in spreading edible education in the region. Our approach focuses on hands-on and experiential learning. Before knowing about the school garden movement in the States, we initiated an organic vegetable garden for our kindergarten students. Earlier this year, students planted potatoes and later this month, they plan to harvest them.
I would like to incorporate the idea of a kitchen classroom into our curriculum through a kimchi-making project. Teaching students the fermenting process is a way to engage them in cultural tradition and culinary skill. Because we eat kimchi at every meal, it is my hope that students feel a connection with the traditional procedure and share what they learn with their families once they have mastered the process. English, mathematics, biology, and physics will also be applied and taught through this project. Over the course of a semester, students will participate in and observe the entire process with our teachers and cooks. In the fall, they will ferment the cabbage, and in the winter they will be able to eat the kimchi from the traditional holding pot we call hang-a-ri.
In Korea, English is perceived as a language that leads one to a better college. A single family’s annual budget for children’s education is higher than any other transaction on the balance sheet. ICEV was founded to reduce private education expenses and give learning opportunities to a broader range of students. I believe our mission shares that of other garden programs on edibleschoolyard.org by focusing on the importance of love and care for children through nature. We are extremely excited and thrilled about carrying out edible education in South Korea, and we value our experiential program as one that contributes greatly to challenging standard practice in Korean education.
Incheon English Village is a member of edibleschoolyard.org.