“California Thursdays” lunch launch

On March 17th, our district participated in a statewide launch of California Thursdays, a program promoted by the Center for Ecoliteracy.  The idea is simple: districts sign on to serve a lunch every Thursday sourced only with California food.

To get ready for the big celebration, I worked with after school students for two months to create educational signage and decorations.

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Strawberries were planned for the menu, so I made them the “harvest of the month” and created strawberry lessons.  We examined strawberry plants, talked about “runners” or stolons, searched for plants in the garden with “strawberry facts,” whipped up strawberry smoothies and made little posters that later decorated the lunch area wall.

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One day before the event, I taught two flower arranging classes after school to make the lunch table centerpieces.  I found the plastic pots at a dollar store, and we made the entire arrangements with only plants and flowers found in the school garden.  They turned out beautifully!

Picking flowers…..

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…and arranging them!

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On the morning of our launch, the Garden Ambassadors came to school early to help me hang signs and posters.

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At 11:00 our special guests arrived—the farmers and ranchers who provided the food for lunch, representatives from our caterer Jeremy’s on the Campus, Jan Stone from the Center for Ecoliteracy and partners from North County San Diego Health and Human Services.  Our Garden Ambassadors greeted each guest, sat with him/her during the assembly and lunch, and provided garden tours.

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Our lunch consisted of sliders made with bison meat from a local ranch, salad from Farmer Phil at Sage Mountain Farm, and bread from California Mountain Bakery.  At the assembly right before lunch, junior high students showed a slideshow they created about California agriculture.  Ken Childs from Star B Ranch, the local bison ranch, spoke to the kids about raising bison and set up a table of bison-related items to see and touch.  Chef Jeremy, Farmer Phil, Jan Stone and Health and Human Services Deputy Director Jennifer Bransford-Koons also spoke about good, local food and healthy lunch!

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Then we all ate lunch!  A wonderful day, and an awesome concept—our district is proud to be a part of the state’s California Thursday effort!  (And thank you to Susi Jones for making this whole event happen—her vision always inspires!)

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Drink a rainbow

An effective phrase for teaching nutrition to children is “eat a rainbow!”  The simple idea is that eating fruits and veggies of all different colors builds a healthy diet.  We made this a theme on Food Day 2015, and I want to keep building upon it.

Sage Garden has provided us with their notebook of recipes which includes a different color smoothie for each grade.  I pulled all of the different colors and am doing “Drink a rainbow!” workshops for my after school students.

I began by setting up the Sage Garden cooking cart with all of the equipment and ingredients laid out and the recipe written on the whiteboard.

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Then I gave each pair of students a stack of laminated fruit and vegetable cards produced by the California Department of Education.  The students sorted the fruits and veggies into two piles:  orange/yellow and other.  We talked about all the orange and yellow examples we found.

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Students came up one by one for the various jobs:  juicing the oranges, peeling the bananas, pressing the limes, adding the strawberries, measuring out the yogurt.

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The next week we did purple smoothies, and this week we will blend up red ones.  As you can imagine, it’s a very popular class!

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The Great Julian Apple Crunch

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Today Julian Elementary and Junior High celebrated National Food Day with 15 workshops on nutrition, cooking, backyard gardening and agriculture.  It was amazing—look for upcoming posts with photos and stories.

For now, let me share a video with you.  Every year people across the country celebrate good, fresh food with an Apple Crunch event.  We did one this year, thanks to Ken and Linda Limon who visited a neighboring orchard whose owners allowed them to harvest for free, picked 400 apples, hand sorted them, packed them in flats of 50 and delivered them to cold storage in the school kitchen.  We washed and bagged them by class size.  Students wore their red No Excuses shirts to school, Garden Ambassadors held up big leaves, and our principal got on the roof to film the event.  The weather was sketchy today but it held just long enough…..five minutes later, downpour!  Simply amazing.

Thank you Linda and Ken—you made this happen!

 

 

It works, it works, it works!

Nutrition/cooking education.  Make no mistake: it works.

It’s said all the time but I’m here with hard evidence to prove it: When you grow and cook food with kids at school, in a fun, interactive way, they are more likely to try new foods and want to cook at home.

As mentioned in the last post, we made ratatouille in our garden/kitchen class.  I also sent home a letter with the recipe to each family and encouraged the kids to teach their parents the recipe.  I said, “If you do make ratatouille at home, please send me a picture.” The very next day I started receiving these:

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Once I received the picture, I visited the student’s class with congratulations,  a few questions about his/her cooking experience at home, and an invitation  to have lunch in the garden that day with a friend.  I’m thrilled that at our school “lunch in the garden” is a motivating reward, as it is sometimes hard to think of incentives that aren’t sweets/snacks or little throwaway objects.

None of this is lost on you, dear readers, but allow me to list the levels of goodness here:

-Students have a positive experience with a certain food at school and bring that excitement home.

-Students show off newly acquired skills to parents, and we all know that re-teaching is good learning.

-Families learn new recipes—in this case, one that is vegetarian, seasonal, adaptable and affordable.

-Students are congratulated and rewarded in front of their peers for extending their learning after school.

Many thanks to Wynola Flats for sourcing these delicious vegetables and ordering what I needed.  I can’t tell you how exciting it was to stop in yesterday for more ingredients and have Stacy say, “People have been coming in, buying ingredients for ratatouille….”

 

“Beauty is a language of care” (ESY Part 2)

My 6-day experience at the Edible Schoolyard Academy (ESY) is simply too big of a story to tell into one post so I’m breaking it all into my “take-aways.”  The first is a principle of Alice Water’s that touches every part of the ESY program:  we show students we love them by creating beautiful spaces for them to eat, learn, and live in. (Perhaps this applies to many/all areas of life?) Let me show you how this plays out…

We were welcomed by this booth at the opening reception…

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…and fed things like this…

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Freshly gathered and arranged flowers from the garden show up everywhere.

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Notice the handmade “papel picado” strung across the classrooms (also in the kitchen classroom.)

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I could go on posting my flower photos, but you get the idea.

This commitment to beauty is also seen on the handwritten, illustrated recipes used in the cooking class.  (We even had a session with Chef Ester on how to whimsically illustrate a recipe.)

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…and also in the signage for just about everything:

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Even the placemats, which connected our meals to the 6-8th grade humanities lessons they teach—lessons also taught at their school.

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At the end of each cooking lesson, students clear the workspace, set the table with a tablecloth, and then go to the side table (below) to pick out elements for a centerpiece.

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Check out the sign!  Enough said.IMG_6484This emphasis was encouraging to me because in the Julian Elementary Garden, one of our 8 components of our mission statement is: We grow beauty.  As such, we have had lessons during which we transplanted donated irises to the front of the school with Miss Sally to beautify the parking lot, learned about flower shows and then picked daffodils for our local show in Julian Town Hall, and made wreaths and flower arrangements to place around campus.  All of this takes time away from “edibles,” but I am reminded it’s incredibly important and we are right on track!

Food Day Nibbles, part 1

This year both our elementary school and junior high celebrated National Food Day with a full day of workshops on agriculture, nutrition, and cooking.  Fourteen experiential sessions spread between the two campuses, dozens of volunteers, and happy, engaged learners everywhere you looked made for a big, wonderful day.  So big that I’ve decided to tell the story in little “nibbles.”

In the weeks preceding the event, I had students work on food collages on foam board.  We did this during our garden lessons and in the after-school program, using seed catalogues.

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I hung the whole collection in front of school to announce the day’s theme.

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Younger students also colored these signs……

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….which adorned the main walkway.

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Afterschool students also made posters to hang around campus:

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To be continued….until then, keep calm and eat real.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Food Day: An educational feast!

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The following article will appear in next week’s Julian News.  Great photos follow after the story!

Joining with individuals, schools and cities across America, Julian Elementary School celebrated its first National Food Day on October 24th.  From 9:00 to 2:00, K-5 students were treated to eight different workshops spread across campus focusing on food, agriculture, cooking and nutrition.  Simply put, students and staff ate it up.

All sessions were experiential, interactive and expertly taught by a team of volunteers.  Representing the Julian Apple Growers Association, Mary Prentice and Teak Nichols related the history of the apple while having the students press their own cider.  Josh Rasmussen, from Down the Road Farm, led students in a planting activity as well as brought farm animals for the kids to enjoy.  Farm Smart, a program of the UC Desert Research and Extension Center, lent us Stephanie Collins for a wonderful program that included churning butter, comparing animal feed, and milking Bessie, a wooden cow equipped with an inner stainless steel container filled with real milk.  Camp Stevens staff Ryan Wannamaker and Correen Walsh captivated kids in the garden with pollinator games, honey tastings and dressing up as beekeepers.  Led by Tricia Elisara and Gina VanderKam, students played vocabulary-rich “Garden Bingo” and interacted with the outstanding documentary film “Nourish” about global food issues.

Cooking was another key ingredient of the day.  Chef Greg from Healthy Adventures Foundation enlisted students to help make lettuce wraps and flavorful tostadas.  Across campus, Chef Jeremy Manley and Carie Quick talked with students about the new school lunch program (catered by Jeremy’s on the Campus) and had the students brainstorm new menu items.  To tie it all together, Carmen Macias led a game in classifying edible plant parts, decorating a “My Plate” diagram with healthy choices and ending with a fitness activity.  Many parents, Garden Beneficials and other dedicated community members generously gave their day to assisting at each workshop.

To add to this educational banquet, the campus was decorated with posters made by students in the weeks prior, promoting good food and healthy habits.  At 11:00, students gathered on the playground for a scheduled exercise break led by Coach Dobby from the Julian Fitness Center.  Just before starting, however, music came on the load speaker and Principal/Superintendent Kevin Ogden moved to the center of the campus, dancing.  Teachers joined him from all directions, and the first ever flash mob at Julian Elementary was performed, appropriately enough to the song “We can change the world” on a day dedicated to making a healthier world for all of us!

Celebrating Food Day was an idea generated by the school’s Farm to School Team as part of the year-long USDA planting grant awarded to the district and spearheaded by Pathways Executive Director Susi Jones.  To learn more about National Food Day, or to begin planning activities for next year, please visit www.foodday.org and/or contact the Farm to School Coordinator Tricia Elisara for more information.

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Students made these posters in University of Wednesday

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Cranking the cider press (Photo courtesy of Karen Alexander)

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Wait a minute….is that Gina VanderKam playing Garden Bingo? (On a visit from Washington, she was my right hand woman all day!) She is still trying to get the crayon off her fingers….

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How adorable is this?

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An activity to classify the edible parts of the plant

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Working on a “My Plate” activity

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After this class, the girl pictured told me “Best day ever!”