February 27, 2014

Author: Neighborhood Farm Initiative

Category: General News Growing Knowledge

Yes! I was so excited to be at my first NFI Winter Gardener class. I had heard about their gardening classes ever since I first moved to Washington, DC in 2011 and stumbled upon one of their community gardens. It was a cold and snowy February evening, but everyone in the class was in a cheery mood as visions of green things and fresh vegetables danced in our heads. We went around the class introducing ourselves and explaining what drove us to take this course.

“I work at a bilingual sustainable public charter school called Mundo Verde” I explained, “as the Cooking and Gardening Instructor. Sustainability and wellness are a core part of Mundo Verde’s curriculum, and I get the awesome job of teaching our students all about their food, where it comes from, and how to eat healthy!” I saw approving nods go around the class – clearly I was talking to a crowd who saw the value in teaching our children about their food. And with one-third of America’s children obese, it’s hard not to.

I added, “I’m really looking forward to using what this course teaches me and applying it in my classroom. And I’d like to feel like I can better manage our school garden.”

And with that, we dove in to our six-week course! By the end of the night I knew I had my first assignment: our instructor, Joe, warned that many people don’t think about gardening until it starts feeling nice out, but actually the time to begin planning and prepping was Now.

The next day at Mundo Verde I began with one of my Second grade classes.  “Friends, today we start our garden!” I announced. The kids cheered – after all the most gardening they had had in months was to grow paperwhite bulbs in cups on the classroom windowsill.

I showed them a planting calendar and asked them to tell me what the different colors meant.

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Students were shown an example planting calendar for guidance.

“Orange and yellow is when you can start seedlings indoors, ” Ethan offered.

“Yes!” I nodded. “And can anyone tell me what a seedling is?” No one raised their hand. “A seedling is like a baby plant. It’s still very cold outside, so before we start growing plants outdoors we can start them inside where it’s warmer.”

“So what do you think we should plant indoors today?” I asked. The students eagerly consulted the calendar.

“Onions! Celery!” they cheered.

That week we did many things to get our garden (and our stomachs!) ready for spring. The students made their own Planting-Transplanting-Harvesting calendar, then planted onions in starter trays and put them under our indoor grow lights. We learned how important it was to keep soil at this early stage very moist.

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Students crafted their very own planting calendar

Finally, to better understand what this “kale” was that we found on our Planting calendar, I made a recipe with the students that I had learned through a training with City Blossoms: “Massaged” Kale Salad with avocado, shredded carrots, chick peas, and lime. To massage the kale and make it easier to digest, students put all the ingredients (plus a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt) in plastic zip-lock bags and massage the bag until the kale looks darker and juicier and the avocado is well and evenly spread over all ingredients.

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My Second graders expectantly held up their forks, having speared a bit of our finished kale salad. We did our ritual Cooking class cheer: “One-Two-Three…Yummmmmmyyy!” and took our first bite of kale salad and our first step toward spring together.

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The kids loved their “Massaged” Kale Salad with avocado, shredded carrots, chick peas, and lime.

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