At schools across the country, bookbags are brimming with homework, hallways are echoing with laughter, and the rhythms of the school year are falling into place. Here in Washington, DC, something else is happening: school gardens are bursting with ripe vegetables and kitchen classrooms are filling schools with the aromas of fresh food. For students at Watkins Elementary School, School Within School, and Peabody Elementary School, this time of year brings an extra element of excitement as FoodPrints classes resume.
Last week, first graders at Watkins began their year-long adventure in growing, cooking, and eating healthy, local food. Class began with a trip to the school garden, where students learned the basics of garden safety and etiquette, and explored the beds of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and basil.
Each class selected a broccoli plant to “adopt”. Over the course of the school year, they will check in on the plant to observe how it grows and changes, and will eventually harvest and eat the broccoli. Students were fascinated by the mystery of a young broccoli plant. “Where is the broccoli? Is it underground?” some asked. Another observed that the large, bluish green leaves resemble elephant ears. The class measured, described, and took photos of the plant. When it was time to harvest vegetables for class, children eagerly searched for the biggest cucumbers, juiciest peppers, and tallest basil plants.
Moving into the FoodLab, our kitchen-classroom at Watkins, the first graders learned about the basics of good hygiene for food handling and how to safely use a knife. Children gathered around tables to practice their knife skills, slicing tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to share. A hush fell over the FoodLab as students happily crunched on their freshly picked produce. Several remarked that this was their first time tasting a specific vegetable, such as bell peppers, and described how crunchy, sweet and tasty it was. Their enthusiasm was palpable, and it was heartening to watch a room full of six-year-olds joyfully devour fresh, raw vegetables.
Several blocks north, the School Within School at Logan Annex (SWS) is also gearing up for a fun and enlightening year with FoodPrints. The weekend before school started, parents and volunteers worked to build a new raised-bed garden and filled it with seedlings. Before long, the garden will be overflowing with kale, carrots, broccoli and brussels sprouts. SWS teachers will use the garden as an educational opportunity, giving students a hands-on experience with the science of a garden’s mini ecosystem. While SWS is not fully equipped with a state of the art FoodLab like the one at Watkins, we are fortunate to have access to a small kitchen. With a little hard work and a lot of help from FRESHFARM Markets supporters, we can transform the space into a fully functional teaching kitchen. The kitchen at SWS is in need of a refrigerator, a dishwasher, child-sized tables and chairs, and cooking and dining implements. FoodPrints relies on various grants and the support of our loyal shoppers (read: you!) to bring the high quality gardening, cooking, and nutrition education we provide to local students. To help our FoodPrints program thrive, visit our donation page or vote for us in this years Ford Community Green Grant.
Written by FRESHFARM Markets FoodPrints Coordinator and Market Manager Linsdsay Wallace.