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.”

Not your parents’ school lunch

By FoodCorps Service Member Emily Horowitz for the Julian News

Everything you think you know about school lunch is wrong. There is no grumpy old lunch lady plopping slop onto styrofoam trays of hungry students, no half-frozen cardboard pizzas or lumpy mystery meat specials. School lunch has had a bad rap for over 50 years — rightfully so in some cases — but with new USDA nutrition standards and policy shifts, school lunch has been changing for the better.

At Julian Elementary School and Julian Junior High School, we are incredibly lucky to have school lunch made by chefs Donald and Shirley Hooper at the local restaurant Jeremy’s on the Hill. As parents to a first grader and a pre-schooler, creating delicious, locally sourced kid-friendly meals is a personal matter for the Hoopers. Donald has transformed Jeremy’s On the Campus lunch program by sourcing the most local ingredients he can find with the help of the generous suppliers at Sysco and local growers like Sage Mountain Farms. From San Diego free-range chicken to tomatoes delivered within four hours of harvesting, the ingredients in our school lunch are far from the frozen mysteries we used to serve.

If San Diego isn’t local enough for you, Donald is also partnering with Brigida and Josh Rasmussen of Down the Road Farm, and Stacy Peyakov of Wynola Flats Produce. Down the Road Farm is a 22.5 acre farm and orchard that uses organic practices and, although it is still relatively small, provides salad greens and herbs for both Jeremy’s on the Hill restaurant and the school lunch program. The Hoopers supplement dishes with these local greens and create sauces from “ugly” produce donated by Wynola Flats to form the delicious and healthy meals served at school everyday.

The National School Lunch Program has strict standards dictating the amount of sodium, saturated fat, sugar, number of calories, and servings of fruit and vegetables contained in each student’s meal. These requirements mean that children who buy school lunch may be more likely to meet their daily nutrition requirements than those who bring lunch from home. It can be difficult to make sure kids are eating nutritious and balanced meals, so why not ditch the lunchable or leftover pizza for some affordable restaurant-quality lunch that you know is healthy?

National school lunch programs allow children whose families may not have access to healthy food to receive the majority of their daily nutrition needs at a reduced price or even for free. In rural Julian, the need for affordable fresh food is especially high. Our school lunch program, Jeremy’s on the Campus, is famous throughout San Diego county as one of the most unique and progressive systems of its kind. The Farm to School movement, which strives to connect kids to healthy food in schools, is transforming lunch programs all over the nation, and we are proud to be a part of it. So next time you stress about what to pack in your child’s lunchbox, put down the hot cheetos, and let your child enjoy a beautiful salad bar and freshly cooked meal!

A first grade student enjoys a chicken sandwich made with meat from Mary’s Chicken in San Diego.

 Donald and Shirley Hooper receive the Julian Backcountry Collaborative April Partner of the Month Award.

September Garden Tour

Welcome back to the garden!  As we do every once in a while, allow me to take you on a seasonal tour of garden education at Julian Elementary.

We started the year by “decorating” the garden with flowers.  We let many unirrigated flower boxes and pots go over the summer, so we freshened them up with some color.

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Third-fifth graders created/updated their garden journals for the year with seed catalogue collages.  This lesson was forced inside because of the wind.

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We have the best apple harvest to date.  We’ve been picking them like crazy.

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Last week I did lessons on how to use a dehydrator.  I did a small demo in the class, then we went out to the garden for the students to get a chance to use the peeler/corer/slicer and layer up the trays.

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We also talked about pears and made a “pear salsa” served on graham crackers.  Students then took home small pear recipe booklets with an “at home cooking challenge.”

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I also chose a new crop of garden ambassadors, and they jumped right into their new jobs: helping with lunchtime composting and giving the Monday Morning Garden Report.

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Garden education is expanding at our school.  We split my job from last year and now I am the in-school garden educator two days a week, and the unbelievably awesome Miss Kat is the after school garden educator three days a week.

Though I have the best support imaginable from administrators, teachers, staff, Pathways, and Pathways director and rockstar-in-residence Susi Jones, it is so awesome to have an in-the-garden, shoulder to shoulder, fellow teacher in Kat.  I have enjoyed so many things—the technical garden planning, the lesson sharing, the inspiration of a kindred vision—but I’ll focus on one thing in particular.

Every week I go to the garden and there are wonderful things happening that someone else made happen.  It is downright thrilling.  Thanks Miss Kat for bringing so much wisdom, experience, love for children, and love for the earth to our little public school….

Here’s a sample of Miss Kat’s work in the garden in our first month of school:

She collected coyote gourds and the students decorated them and chose seeds with which to fill them:

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Students collected and examined seeds:

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She also taught the students to make tiny Johnny Appleseed dolls with dried apple faces:

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Finally, she and her husband Jim created this beautiful “eat a rainbow” mural for the outdoor lunch area.  We love you Miss Kat!

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“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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Last garden tour of 2015

Before we head into the new year, here’s a glimpse of the fun we had and the work we did in the school garden in November and December—aka my periodic “Garden Tour.”

Leaf rubbings in garden class made sweet placemats for “Take your parent to lunch” in the garden.

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Following up on the “How is it grown?” video the students watched on Food Day, we made a simple cranberry relish with orange juice and local honey.

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While the cranberries cooked, we worked on updating our garden journals—-decorating the covers with images from garden catalogues and inserting recipes and other lesson materials from the last couple months.

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Miss Sally Snipes gave us a bushel of daffodils to add to the garden.  To make this a fun activity, I called the class “Bulbs and Bubbles.”  After planting a few bulbs, students got to blow bubbles…then back to the bulbs….and then bubbles…

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I took the portable speaker out to the garden to play Christmas music as students went wild decorating the garden.  Where could they hang ornaments?  Anywhere they could reach.

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For out last garden class in December, the younger grades made tangerine pomanders—a highly sensory, fine motor activity.

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Older students do an activity that is now a bit of tradition around the holidays: wreath making with freshly cut cedar and rosemary sprigs.

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Freezing weather sent us inside for a few garden classes.  Here students measured out their own healthy trail mix and munched on it while we played garden bingo.

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Anticipating a lot of cold, wet weather to come, I am now thinking through new inside garden projects and activities for the rest of the winter.

More to come in the new year:  our visit from Americorps and garden fashion!  Thanks for following along in 2015!  And thanks for sharing my love and enthusiasm for “all the good things that happen in school gardens.”  Happy New Year!