FoodCorps Friday- A Snapshot of Service in the Winter Months
By, Food Bank of Northeast Georgia service member, Katie Sanders
On the calendar, it may seem as if we are in the middle of winter but the weather here in Georgia seems to still be a little confused. Some weeks the highs in the 70’s gives me that itch to start spring planting however they are quickly followed by days with lows in the 20’s and I’m glad once again that I didn’t plant anything. With widely varying temperatures, it has been difficult to grow much of anything in our garden (our broccoli and cauliflower bolted like crazy but we’ve enjoyed their pretty flowers!) and therefore we are still limited with our ability to do outdoor garden activities. It may be surprising to those who aren’t familiar with it, but garden education with an up-and-running garden can be relatively easy to connect to standards across all different subject areas. A winter garden however can be a little more difficult and requires a bit more creativity in making those garden connections in an indoor setting. Read on below to see a snapshot of what all we have done over the past few weeks to survive our time indoors.
Taste tests and cooking classes:
Perhaps the easiest way to connect to the garden inside is through eating fresh produce. In January, my monthly school wide taste test schedule continued with the introduction of collard greens from a local farm. Instead of having students try the traditional boiled collards I decided to switch it up and quickly sauté the collards with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper (and with a tip from a student’s parent I added a teensy bit of sugar which made a big difference). Slightly dismayed by the dark, leafy green vegetable, the students were wary of this taste test however after they tasted it, they loved it! In comparison to December’s taste test of sweet potatoes, I had a lot more students try and like my collard greens.
With limited fresh produce from the garden our cooking class options were similarly limited however we decided to make homemade pop tarts since the students occasionally eat the processed variety for breakfast. This lesson demonstrated that cooking for yourself can be a much healthier and more delicious option even without the presence of veggies! The students made their own pastry dough from flour, butter, sugar and salt, and filled their pastries with locally made blackberry jam. After baking in the oven, we topped the pastries with a quick glaze and the students made quick work of scarfing them down. Pop tart cooking was a major success and is highly recommended for these colder months!
The cold weather is a perfect time to discuss the changing of the seasons with the students and so with 2nd and 4th grade we have done just that. The fourth-grade students have mapped out the position of the Earth around the sun and studied how that correlates to the differing seasons. They were then able to apply their knowledge of the seasons to organize various garden plants based on the season in which they grow best. Second grade has nicknamed the activity “Season Detectives” and they take turns reading aloud the characteristics of each vegetable before deciding as a group where to place it.
Another fun activity was with our 5th grade students that were studying microorganisms. The Scienhancement teacher at our school and I had the students create advertisements for why soil microbes are good for our plants and why someone would want to have a wide diversity of soil microbes. The creativity of the students was amazing with this project as they all had unique ways of observing the benefits of soil health which is impressive for 5th graders!
Of course, if you are lucky you will still have winter crops in production during this time of the year, assuming they didn’t bolt like all of ours did, and you will still be able to use the outdoor garden with these plants. We have had a few crops survive including kale, spinach, and a healthy amount of cilantro. It was the latter that we donated to our cafeteria and use on the lunch line for fresh salsa. The kids were super eager to try produce that they had grown in the garden. Additionally, we have had many planting lessons with our Kindergarten and 1st graders in our greenhouse to prep for the upcoming spring- it is still a bit early, but I was too eager to not plant anything.
Although this is just a glimpse into all of the activities we have done in the past few weeks, hopefully it sheds some light on ideas and inspiration for indoor garden connections and activities!