This turkey is no chicken

A belated Thanksgiving post follows.  We all know gratitude isn’t seasonal!

We give thanks for our partnership with FoodCorps.  I feel very fortunate to work with this incredible organization that lent us Emily for a whole year last year and now Cam. FoodCorps volunteers bring so much to our school through their garden/nutrition lessons in school and after school, daily work in the garden and cafeteria, and participation in various on-campus programs for children’s health.

Here’s Cam, demonstrating his good sport, unfailingly positive, ready-for-any-challenge attitude.  Our after school program has an annual Turkey Run during which kids chase a costumed adult turkey around the playground.  The first to grab a flag takes home a full turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone else who participates gets to choose an item (yams, canned soups, cranberries, stuffing) for their families as well.

Thanks Cam!  Julian Elementary and Julian Junior High are very grateful you are here!

Another Delicious Day: Food Day 2018

This is a long one, but very tasty…..read on!

On October 25th, Julian Elementary and Junior High celebrated their 6th annual Food Day with a full day of fun, experiential workshops about cooking, nutrition, backyard gardening and agriculture.  Our theme was “California Grown.” Garden Ambassadors helped me decorate the school early in the morning while our food-themed soundtrack blared.

Nine presenters delivered the following 30-minute lessons at the elementary school:

Eat the Rainbow: Getting kids active with physical education activities, the UCSD School Wellness team taught kids how fruits and veggies of all colors help our bodies.

The workshop ended with a persimmon taste test!

A Seed is a Backpack: Our yearlong FoodCorps service member, Mr. Cam taught kids the parts of the seed and then let them examine various seeds with microscopes and magnifying glasses.

Bees, Flowers and Veggies in Our Connected World:  For the sixth year Camp Stevens has been an important part of our Food Day. This year they taught the kids to make “bee hotels”—a collection of nesting tubes for native bees.

Cooking with Chef Joey and Chef Greg:  Back by popular demand from the Healthy Adventures Foundation, our two chefs worked with the kids to make ambrosia salad and fruit roll-ups.

Growing New Food from Old:  Another longstanding partner with Food Day, the Resource Conservation District instructed students how to make their own pots out of newspaper, fill them with soil and plant potato pieces!

Composting with Worms: A new presenter at Food Day and a wonderful new addition to our event, the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation spent the day teaching students all about vermicomposting, including a chance for the kids to dig through castings to find the red wrigglers.

My Cheeseburger Came from a Farm:  Well-known and loved by generations of Julian students, retired teacher Kathy Cauzza and team brought an amazing lesson on farming and ranching, an educational program of the Cow Belles.

Apple Growers of Julian:  Teak and Kaitlan Nichols, with Harvey Arntson, are six-year presenters with the Julian Apple Growers Association.  Every year students learn about Julian’s apple heritage while pressing their own apple juice.

Food, Fiction, Facts and Fun!:  We were pleased to have the Julian Library join us this year, making crafts with students, reading stories and sharing fun food facts!

At the Junior High, another set of six classes was offered to students:

Bounty Bags–Keeping in Sustainable:  Artist Teal Young walked students through the steps of turning an old t-shirt into a reusable shopping bag as she educated them about the perils of plastic bags and wildlife.

California Conifers–Forest Food:  Representing the Volcan Mountain Foundation, Janice Smith and Kat Beck taught students about conifer wildcrafting in the backcountry, offering samples of Douglas Fir shortbread cookies and toasted pine nuts.

We Grow it ALL in California!:  High school agriculture teacher Mr. Martineau brought over his FFA students to discuss the primary crops of various California counties, offering food samples from each region and displaying handmade visual aids.

Rethink you Drink: Back for a second year, Daniel Barajas of Health and Human Services challenged students to think about their sugar intake and the various health effects.

How does it grow? Food Films:  These four to six minute films that focus on different crops are beautiful, interesting and memorable. Once again, Mr. Pierce showed the films and facilitated discussion.  For a sample of these wonderful short films, click here.

GUTS!  Your Second Brain:  A new presenter, Ms. Fiendisen of Smart Care educated students on the importance of healthy gut flora, ending her presentation with tastes of sauerkraut and kombucha.

In addition to the workshops, students at the junior high were treated to plates of homemade salsas, whipped up by the Pathways weekly parenting group.  At the end of the day all students also got a chance to sample many different foods from Julian and around the world in a large tasting rotation.

On both campuses, all presenters, staff and volunteers enjoyed a lunch provided by our amazing partner, Soups and Such, and delectable cookies by California Mountain Bakery. Chef Donald of Jeremy’s on the Campus also brought a tasty, beautiful California Thursday lunch for the children.

Finally, the fifth grade garden ambassadors went on a fieldtrip to Down the Road farms to finish the day, learning all about organic gardening from Farmer Josh and Farmer Bri. Here we are standing in front of the oldest apple tree in Julian!

Clearly, it was a full and wonderful day, packed with fun and learning.  Thank you to the parent and community volunteers who helped to make it happen!  Also thanks to Dave Palmer of Dunk Tank Marketing and the Farm to School Collective for many of the photos above!

In praise of volunteers

This morning I scrolled back through the blog in search of pictures for a project.  Remembering all of the things we have accomplished over the last ten years is overwhelming and encouraging. NONE of it would have happened without the generous help of volunteers.

This year I am working on building up our group of core volunteers, and we have had some amazing people step up.  Danielle is a mother of four children in our district and a recent addition to our school board.  She checked in with me at one of our new “Watering, Weeding, and Working Wednesdays.”  I was showing her some of the deferred maintenance projects, and she lit up at the mention of our cedar legacy table.  If you don’t know the background of our AMAZING table, please click here.  It’s one of our best stories.

The Legacy Table:  A Little Tale of Reinvesting, Rebuilding and Reinvesting

The table was in need of a little TLC.  It has been a long time since we have cleaned it and treated it with rosewood oil.  Danielle, along with all of her kids, brought out a sander and tools, and they restored it beautifully!  She said teachers were coming out to thank her for her work on it, and when I profusely thanked her, she said she was happy to do it because her family loves our school so much.  And we love them.  ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN SCHOOL GARDENS!

August/September garden tour

As we occasionally do here at “What’s not to like?” take a stroll with me through our garden program in August and September.

For the first time in our HOTM efforts, we chose the avocado for August.  Our taste test was avocado toast, and naturally it had a near 100% approval rating at recess.  This sign met students off the bus in the morning.

I caught this snapshot of Ms. T opening up her day the first week of school at the garden table.  What a peaceful, beautiful place to connect with students and set the tone for the week.

Introducing 8 out of 10 of our new 5th grade Garden Ambassadors.  This is a long-running program that is original to our school, and we’re very proud of it.  To learn more, see this or this or this or this.

On September 11th, we held a Day of Service and Remembrance in the school garden.  Emily, our beloved Food Corps volunteer from last year, brought over a crew of friends from Camp Stevens.  We got a lot done with their help and positive energy!

We have an amazing parent (Garrett Huffman) who is working with Mr. C to build a shed we have on order.  Garrett built this platform this week.  I cannot wait to better organize our garden materials in a big shed.

Mr. Cam is starting a new program called Tastebud Tickets. At snack recess, he walks around giving tickets for kids “caught” eating something healthy.

Then on Monday morning, he put all of those tickets in his garden hat and had a garden ambassador pull one name.  That student got to choose a friend with whom to share lunch in the garden that afternoon.

Now in September, we are focusing on apples for our Harvest of the Month.  Our Garden Ambassadors offered bread with locally made apple butter at recess.

Good food, happy kids!  Til next time…..

A Fresh Grant from the CA Department of Education

At the end of the school year in May, we learned that we had received a California-grown Fresh School Meals grant from the California Department of Education. (Susi and I had worked on this many months before.)  This grant allows us to start or grow many healthy eating initiatives on campus.  Here are a few that we’ve created in the first few weeks of school.

Every month we host a Walk to School event.  This year we are combining it with taste tests to promote breakfast and Harvest of the Month.  Here we are at the starting point in town to hand out whole wheat muffins made with apples picked from our school garden.  (A mom reached out to me the next day and asked for the recipe because her kids had raved about the sample!  Success!)

Mr. Copelands serves up muffins with flair!

Carmen, our bilingual resource coordinator, is working with her parenting group to teach classes incorporating Harvest of the Month as well as replicating cafeteria recipes provided by Jeremy’s on the Campus to help promote school lunch.  These parents have a blast cooking and learning together, and they are producing spectacular dishes!  See the apple recipes below!

Finally, at Back to School night Chef Donald provided taste tests of our school lunches as to help educate parents about the fresh and healthy food we offer in our cafeteria!  We will have many more projects and equipment acquisitions in the coming months with this grant—stay tuned for more delicious stories.

 

Introducing…. our new FoodCorps service member!

Today we are welcoming our new Food Corps service member for the next 11.5 months.  You may remember that our district began working with (the most amazing) FoodCorps program last year, and Emily pioneered the position here on campus.  Cam was here in early August for on-site training, then left for national and regional training in Portland and Oakland, and now he’s back to dig in. I’ll let him introduce himself below.  Welcome Cam!

Howdy everyone!

My name’s Cameron James Petersen, though most call me Cam, and I’ll be replacing Emily Horowitz (or Ms. Emily to our younger readers) as the new FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member at Julian Union Elementary School District / Julian Pathways.

So a little about me:

I hail from down the hill, and grew up in El Cajon, although I’ve lived up and down the West Coast. I graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in History and English, knowing I’d end up back inside a classroom sooner or later as a teacher. An interest in public service and an insatiable appetite for travel lured me into serving 27 months in the U.S. Peace Corps in Ghana, West Africa as an agriculture volunteer. There I discovered my deep-seated passion for community development and the degree to which food ties us all together. Fast forward a couple years and here I am, serving for the next year in your community.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the FoodCorps’ mission, we are an organization that aims to connect kids to healthy food in school, so they can lead healthier lives and reach their full potential. We achieve this mission through three types of activities: hands-on lessons in the classroom concerning gardening and nutrition, working with school foodservice providers to provide our students with healthy school meals and create a cafeteria that steers students towards the healthiest options, and by creating a school wide culture of health including everybody from teachers to the community members that live in the area.

You’ll more than likely see me around town and on the school campuses — please stop and say “hi” if I don’t get to you first. I’m looking forward to meeting you all and getting some good work done!

Best regards,

CJP

 

First week of school (already?)

Welcome back!  School is officially back in session here at Julian Elementary, and we are looking forward to our best year yet in the school garden.  (Thanks once again to the Sage Garden Project for funding!  You folks are the very best!)

A few cool developments over the summer:

Our pioneer bed is exploding with veggies!

Emily finished up the signage for the native plant trail!

Emily also found an amazing volunteer to build a heavy-duty trellis for our grapes, creating a shady, whimsical tunnel for kids to walk through between the lunch tables and the playground.

In closing, I’d like to revisit the original objective was for this blog: to make a case for school gardens from every possible angle.  Here’s yet another compelling reason for a school garden:

On the first day of school we have an orientation for parents new to the school.  All of our administrators and program directors warmly welcome new families as we explain all of the resources we offer.  I had a few minutes to talk about our garden, and at the end of the meeting, I invited parents to go out for a short tour.

As I was walking around with one of the new families, the mom told me that they had seen the garden on their first visit to the school months ago.  They were won over by many things at our wonderful district but “it was seeing the school garden that finally convinced us that this was the place we wanted our kids to go to school.”