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!

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

 

Getting smarter every year: the daffodil show

We have hundreds of daffodils planted all around our garden, and we keep adding more every year. Every March our town of Julian hosts a daffodil show which is truly wonderful! (You can read my rapturous past reports here and here.)

Though students have planted most of the daffodils, I usually picked our prizewinning blooms the first couple years the school garden was represented in the youth division of the show.  Then I got a little smarter and had the kids go out and pick the flowers.  This year I was even smarter and put the whole process in the students’ hands: I not only had the students choose the flowers, after a short tutorial on how to do so properly, but I also had them key out the flowers using a laminated guide with flower part diagrams and division breakdowns.  They also arranged the blooms in show vases and filled out the submission cards.  Our wonderful Garden Beneficial for the day,  Jenny graciously offered to drop them off at Town Hall, ready to enter. And like every year, we brought home a handful of ribbons—but this year, the ownership of the flowers and the garden and our participation in the show was better than ever—no surprise.  School garden cardinal rule:  get kids’ hands on everything!

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January/February garden tour

As is our tradition, let’s take a look around at the last couple months of garden/education at Julian Elementary (aka “Garden Tour”).  We’ll start inside, because due to wet, windy and freezing weather, that’s where we’ve been doing a lot of our lessons.

Potentially messy inside, but do-able if you lay all of the supplies out just right: pinecone bird feeders.

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We hung all 80 of them from the plum tree the next day:

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Younger students are now studying the edible “flower” part of the plant so roasted cauliflower in my portable oven was our taste test–another big hit.  Favorite interaction:  Students were exclaiming how it was their new favorite food.  “It’s good…plus 100!”  “It’s good, plus 200!” And then a little boy with a cute grin declared: “It’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten, the last number in the world TIMES the last number in the world!”

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Another fun indoor lesson covered an introduction to soil.  We talked about the differences between sand, silt and clay and then looked at samples under the microscopes.

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Using a great lesson from Sage Garden, we then mixed up edible “soil” with different size cereals and yogurt.

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Teak Nichols from the Julian Apple Growers Association was our guest speaker for three classes, teaching a lesson on pruning fruit trees.  Local fruit association working with a public school: a real apples to apples connection!

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A “search and find” activity gave students clues to things in the garden.  Once they found the items, they found “words” which they plugged into a puzzle on their sheet.

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The completed puzzle read:

“Your mind is a garden, Your thoughts are the seeds, You can grow flowers, Or you can grow weeds.”  We had a short chat about what that could mean, dovetailing with our school-wide focus on character education.

Students started making educational signage for our upcoming California Thursdays event–more on that to come.

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We finished our “Drink a Rainbow” smoothie series:

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Fifth grade needed a place to test their flood barriers–our swale covered in clover was a good spot to flood!

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They also picked some early daffodils for a still life drawing lesson in Mrs. McFedries’ (unendingly creative) class.

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Corn tortillas, and the concept of global staple foods, made for a tasty mini-lesson.

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Thanks for taking a stroll with me!  Next up: California Thursdays!

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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In which service volunteers are celebrities…

It was a good morning in November when I answered the Pathways phone and an AmeriCorps team member was on the line, asking if we would like a group of volunteers for a day of service at school.

Um, YES!

On December 18th, we welcomed eight young people from all around the county on a 10-month term of community service across the western states.  They had been in Julian for six weeks, staying at Camp Stevens and working on building and clearing trails, planting natives on Volcan and helping out around town, such as assisting locals in hanging all of the holiday decorations on our historic Main Street.  On our day, they worked with Pathways, helping to wrap presents for our toy drive, moving a sandbox for the special ed. department, planting bulbs, painting our table, and installing a hoop system over our raised beds.

I also asked them if they would be willing to do a 15-minute presentation to the 4th and 5th grade classes.  They were happy to do this and visited each class to discuss the concept of AmeriCorps, what projects they had already contributed to, where they were headed next, and what they had learned about committing a year of their young lives to service in various communities.  I also asked the team to share some of their reflections on living in Julian with our students, as it’s always great to get an outsider’s perspective on what is just “daily life” for you.  They talked about the natural beauty of Julian, the close-knit community who had welcomed them wholeheartedly and of course, the apple pie.

After taking a few last questions, I hustled them out the door so the students could get ready for lunch.  As I did, some fifth graders followed us with pen and paper and started asking the AmeriCorps members to sign their names.  Suddenly I realized the kids were asking for their autographs!  The AmeriCorps members realized this too as they signed paper after paper, laughing that this was definitely a “first” for them.

Oh to live in a world where the people who volunteer and serve in communities are the celebrities!  And thank you to the amazing Mrs. McFedries who has taught her class to respect and be grateful for people who serve others.  Bless you AmeriCorps team as you continue to make the world a better place!

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