An update from PFM’s FoodCorps service member, Elena Greenberg
Roots. Stems. Leaves. Flowers. Fruit. Seeds. These are the six plant parts that 2nd through 8th grade students learned about over the course of the fall semester at Lincoln Elementary School, Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribal Headquarter’s After-school Program, Granite Mountain School, and Mile High Middle School. Beyond running the education booth at the farmers market, I spend the majority of my time teaching gardening, nutrition, and cooking, so that these kids can have the knowledge and tools to grow up healthy.
By learning the six plant parts, second graders understand that food comes from the earth and if we harvest lettuce from the garden, we can make a delicious salad with it! Eighth graders are also learning about new vegetables, such as bean sprouts, beets, and kale, and now know how to make a healthy smoothie to sustain them throughout the school day. The fifth and sixth graders in cooking club at Granite Mountain School proved their healthy cooking skills at the end of the semester with a Chopped Challenge, where they were judged on teamwork, nutritional value of their food, and taste (of course!).
A common theme of last semester was using the six plant parts as different mediums, for example with art. Seed mosaics are a great way for kids to start asking which plant comes from which seed and why they come in different shapes and colors. We also painted pots so that they could take their plants home and care for them over the winter break. One of my favorite art activities is using vegetables as stamps, such as okra or potatoes. When you cut off the end of an okra, it has a beautiful flower design on the inside that makes the perfect vehicle for stamping and making your very own bookmark.
Another way that we used the six plant parts was through hands-on planting. Students at all three schools and the after-school program at the tribal headquarters had the opportunity to plant their own seeds in the garden and watch as they emerge from the soil. Although around Halloween time, everyone wanted to plant pumpkins, we ended up planting mostly winter vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, radishes, green and purple lettuce, and beets–an important lesson about warm and cold weather crops and growing seasons. At Lincoln and Granite Mountain, students in garden club helped build the raised beds and learned what goes into a “lasagna bed” (cardboard, straw, compost scraps, steer manure and topsoil) to make the soil rich and the plants grow.
Probably everybody’s favorite way to use the six plant parts were the taste tests. Yavapai Seasonal Harvest planned and facilitated these taste tests at five different schools around Prescott with help from food service staff and the overwhelming result was that kids love vegetables! Using fresh spinach and carrots from Aguiar Farms and Whipstone Farm in Paulden, students were able to taste fresh and healthy vegetables in a fun, creative way. Every student voted whether they loved the vegetable, liked it, or preferred no thank you.
Looking forward to this upcoming semester, I’m excited for more hands-on gardening and cooking activities, and learning from the students as much as they learn from me. Thank you to everyone who continues to make this program possible and exciting for kids!