FoodCorps Friday- Sleep in the Garden, Awake in the Classroom
By, Captain Planet Foundation service member, Greg LaFortune
Do I mean “sleep” literally? Not really. Just let me explain.
The beginning of the service term was very fast paced for me. Along with learning the basics of planting, getting acquainted with my schools, and more, I had to balance personal obligations and continue to be consistent with important things and people in my life. I felt like it was the perfect challenge for myself, and I accepted it with confidence. I did research on how to plant all of these different types of vegetables, I thought, I planned, I wrote down, I asked questions, and they cycle repeated. I mean, I just wanted to prepare myself for success and a bountiful harvest!
I thought I was doing the right thing. But as soon as I felt confident and ready enough to start planting, the weather had already made its transition. It was too late to plant some of the things I wanted to plant. The time had come for the beds to be put to rest until spring.
I was discouraged, but I realized the opportunity at stake. I learned that this was my chance to build relationships with students through hands on cooking inside of the classroom. And that is what I did.
At Feldwood Elementary, things have been great. In the month of November, we did activities with the sweet potato and even started our sweet potato slips in the classroom. One week, I came into class dressed up as George Washington Carver to prepare a tasty sweet potato recipe with my first graders. They students came in and looked at me (some laughed while others were confused). I started class off by reading a story about Carver to them. I finished off by telling them that I am his great-great grandson who is here to keep his legacy thriving. And yes, they believed me. It made the sweet potato fries tasting much more enjoyable and fun.
With our 2nd and 5th grade Talented and Gifted (TAG) students, we played a game that I called “Word to the Herb.” Students were separated into teams and given different herbs. They had to use their sensory skills to guess what herb it was and some common uses. That was amazing.
Feldwood is ready to launch our Sprout Scouts club starting in February! Our 5th grades STEM Ambassadors are ready to accept the call.
Alongside the amazing students I serve at Feldwood, I serve the most amazing STEM and PBL coaches I have ever met. These two ladies are strong leaders who really pour into me. At first, I thought my service would be walk in, serve, walk out. But as I continue on this journey, I am grateful for the relationships that are cultivating in my midst. The students, as well, are bright and make the learning environment vibrant and fun.
I can’t talk about my love for Feldwood without talking about my love for my other school. I have a special connection with Woodland Middle School that I never thought I could have. These students challenge me to be the best I can be. I am so glad to see my service to them paying off. Ms. Scott and Ms. Stevens’ 7th grade Life Science classes consist of students are so willing to step out of their comfort zones to get their hands dirty, and I love it.
In November, we experimented with cooking. I brought beans and squash to class and used corn donated to us from our cafeteria to make a delicious 3 Sisters soup one week. The very next week, we went out to our school garden and pulled some fresh basil from our purple basil plant and brought it in to make Basil pesto for a tasting! Though students wished we ate our pesto with chicken (they always want chicken), our pasta with pesto on top did suffice and the students enjoyed the activity. We’ve also made ginger honey lemon tea, a unique sweet potato smoothie, and also made sweet potato fries as well.
Outside in the garden, our kale, radishes, and swiss chard are doing great! We recently planted onions and carrots which the students were excited to plant. We have a kale and apple salad taste test on Wednesday, January 25 soon using fresh Red Russian Kale that we grew in our garden! I am excited about that. We still will be doing cooking in the classroom, but it is time for the garden beds to start waking up! We have a full lineup of spring crops to plant once the time is right. We are ready.
It’s been a successful year thus far. Here is the main thing I learned: If I spent more time “doing” than I did “preparing to do” then the first half of my service would’ve been much more successful. I would’ve gotten those plants in before the end of their season. However, I take a more positive approach. Maybe the first half of my service term wasn’t the time to be super excited about planting as I was. Putting the garden beds to sleep led up to my realization that it was the time for relationships to be built by cooking in the classroom. Am I still proud of myself, the growth, the failures, and everything else along this journey? I absolutely am. I thank God that I am a more responsible and knowledgeable service member. I am looking forward to what the second half of this experience has to offer. Sometimes one area of your life has to be temporarily put to sleep, like the garden beds, in order for you to find a more fitting way to build relationships with the things and people who you serve. I. FEEL. GREAT.