FRESHFARM's food education program in partnership with DC Public Schools

FoodPrints is an education project of FRESHFARM that integrates gardening, cooking, and nutrition education into the curriculum at partner elementary schools. Watch the FoodPrints video to see our program in action. 

Scientific observations in the garden

One of the hallmarks of the FRESHFARM FoodPrints program is how we align our lessons with what teachers and students are doing in their classrooms. Our lessons support Common Core Standards in Math and Literacy as well as the Next Generation Science Standards. With this alignment, our program is an extension of classroom instruction, which allows students opportunities to apply concepts in hands-on experiences in school gardens and teaching kitchens.

As an example, in our lesson, "Making scientific observations in the garden," students learn to compare artistic drawing and scientific drawing, document the ways plants and animals interact in the garden, and work on their own scientific observational drawing skills.

This lesson aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards "Biodiversity and Humans" Disciplinary Core Idea and 2nd Grade Performance Expectation 2-LS4-1, "Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats."  

This lesson is also an example of how FoodPrints instruction is aligned with the Environmental Literacy Framework from the DC Office of State Superintendent of Education, which recently awarded FRESHFARM a significant grant to provide environmental literacy instruction to students in Prek-4 through 1st grade through FoodPrints in-school field trips.

Students experience this lesson as an opportunity to spend time in the garden and dedicate time and energy to really looking at the plants and drawing what they see. After spending time really examining the parts of a plant, they notice the lines and shapes of the leaves and stems and are able to draw very realistic representations of many kinds of plants. Students come away with a greater appreciation of the plants that grow the food we eat, and a stronger ability to examine closely the natural world around them.

FoodPrints observational drawing2.JPG

A new teaching kitchen and garden at Kimball Elementary

Thanks to funding from the Office of the State Superintendent’s Environmental Literacy Program, FoodPrints staff transformed an under-utilized science lab at Kimball into a beautiful FoodPrints classroom last spring.

Renovated teaching kitchen at Kimball, with students excited about lettuce from their garden!

Renovated teaching kitchen at Kimball, with students excited about lettuce from their garden!

The space had been used primarily for storage for a long time, and it was cluttered and dusty.

Kimball teaching kitchen before clean out and renovation

Kimball teaching kitchen before clean out and renovation

With support of administrators and plenty of assistance from custodial staff and students, we filled several trash cans, dusted, cleaned and organized - discovering a treasure of science materials that will be used in FoodPrints classes and are now organized and available for staff throughout the school. The space is now a bright classroom that accommodates students gathering for FoodPrints lessons, and is used for growing seedlings for transplanting to the garden, preparing food in cooperative teams, diving deep into the science and health curriculum, and enjoying tasty recipes together.

We also transformed the existing school garden which was not laid out in an ideal way for student engagement. We partnered with the local urban organic gardening organization, Love & Carrots, to build, install and fill six garden beds and add drip line irrigation.

New Kimball garden beds with drip lines and rich soil

New Kimball garden beds with drip lines and rich soil

The garden is now thriving for students, families, and staff to experience a flourishing, seasonal garden every day on the school grounds. We harvested kale, collard greens, radishes and salad greens last spring. In the first month of school, we had corn, basil, peppers, eggplants all growing, and this month students are planting collards, swiss chard, kale and spinach.

Developing future food educators

This school year, FRESHFARM is hosting FoodCorps members who are serving in FoodPrints schools as part of the AmeriCorps national service program.  These young people --  who are interested in urban farming, urban food systems, and education -- each work in one of our DC public partner elementary schools in Wards 6 and 7 during the 2016-2017 school year.

Kaamilah Mitchell works with a student on a FoodPrints community planting day.

Kaamilah Mitchell works with a student on a FoodPrints community planting day.

FoodCorps service members are reliable, positive adults who serve in schools that share the FoodPrints mission of empowering kids to choose healthy foods. Our FoodCorps fellows are invaluable members of our team, both through their work supporting classes and in their efforts improving the overall school food culture:

* Each FoodCorps member serves as an assistant FoodPrints teacher, which reduces the student-to-teacher ratio in FoodPrints classes. They are another set of thoughtful eyes and ears in the classroom, building relationships with students and classroom teachers and giving the lead FoodPrints teacher feedback on student and volunteer responses to the lesson. 

Alex Olson helps Ludlow-Taylor students learn about worm composting. 

Alex Olson helps Ludlow-Taylor students learn about worm composting. 

* Each FoodCorps member works on other aspects of creating a healthy food environment at his or her assigned school. They are present in the cafeteria, the garden, and elsewhere in the school, informally talking with students and working with them on ways to understand nutrition and healthy eating, encouraging composting, and being a positive adult role model. They  build community with teachers, administrators, and families, and often participate in an existing -- or help form -- the school’s Health and Wellness Committee (as mandated by the DC Healthy Schools Act). And FoodCorps members help manage the school garden, often engaging with students during recess and after school. 

FoodCorps member, Jen Glen, helps a Tyler student explore the garden after school.

FoodCorps member, Jen Glen, helps a Tyler student explore the garden after school.

FRESHFARM helps to develop these future food educators by giving them opportunities for hands-on teaching and gardening, training, support, and mentoring from experienced educators along the way. 

Read bios of our FoodCorps members on the FoodPrints Team page

New Ludlow Taylor FoodPrints Garden: A Partnership with the City to showcase a new model for urban schoolyards

This past weekend, city officials, parents, and community members came out to dedicate new gardens at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School. The project transformed about one-third of the massive amount of pavement behind the school into natural areas that allow children to engage with nature, grow food, and play in and among the plants.

With an ambitious size and innovative rainwater conservation features, the new gardens were touted by Councilmember Charles Allen and DC Department of the Environment Director, Tommy Wells, as an “amazing community asset” and a model for “rethinking what urban schools are.”

This past summer, two new,  large gardens were installed in the back of Ludlow-Taylor Elementary. One is a native plant garden  featuring pollinator plants and bioretention features (capturing rainwater which waters the plants and reduces stormwater runoff), created as part of the DC Department of Energy and Environment’s RiverSmart Schools program.

The other garden is a new FoodPrints garden, featuring 3-foot-tall raised beds with about 1000 square feet of planting area configured in three square rings with walkways throughout.

This project was a partnership between an Engineering for Social Change class at the University of Maryland (with funding from the Neilom Foundation), the DC Department of Energy and Environment’s RiverSmart School program (which worked with Natural Resources Design, a local landscape design firm, and J & G Landscaping to execute the project) and FRESHFARM FoodPrints.

At the garden dedication, Ludlow-Taylor Principal Andrew Smith emphasized how the new gardens are positive, inspiring spaces that students have fully embraced with respect, curiosity and pride. The Ludlow-Taylor parent community has also embraced the new garden by raising important funds for irrigation and coming out for planting days.  

Martine Hippolyte, FRESHFARM’s Lead FoodPrints Teacher at Ludlow-Taylor, will lead FoodPrints sessions for all students at the school to engage them in this new garden. Each classroom in the school participates in one FoodPrints session per month -- which are structured as “in-school” field trips and last for about 2 hours. FoodPrints classes give students extended opportunities to work in the garden and harvest produce, cook in their teaching kitchen classroom using the produce they harvest (supplemented with additional produce from FRESHFARM Markets), eat what they prepare, and engage in projects that support their curriculum at each grade level.

The garden is also a community asset: it is part of the school’s playground that is open to the public during non-school hours, next to a frequently used city baseball field, and a large natural feature in the neighborhood.

FoodPrints Enters its 10th Year!

Bringing students hands-on experiences with growing food; developing skills and confidence as young cooks; and deepening learning of nutrition, science, math and more

By Barbara Percival, master gardener and longtime volunteer with FoodPrints at Watkins Elementary School

Now in its 10th year, FoodPrints continues to bring positive, hands-on gardening and cooking experiences to DC public elementary school students. 

reflections at the 10-year mark

To reflect on the difference FoodPrints makes, I'd like to share my observations from working with the program since its beginning at Watkins Elementary School:

In the school garden, students have hands-on experiences with nature and growing food and opportunities for open-ended exploration that is increasingly less available inside classrooms driven by test results. Children have a natural curiosity that is unleashed in the garden, as they plant, water, weed, and harvest. At the same time, they learn about how vegetables grow, to observe, to cooperate, to be self-sufficient, and to be responsible.

In the kitchen-classroom, students prepare the majority of each recipe themselves, which helps them develop confidence as cooks and pride in their accomplishments. They learn how to prepare vegetables, measure ingredients, use kitchen tools, scale recipes and use appropriate table manners. By fifth grade, classes are responsible for almost all aspects of preparing recipes, with minimal assistance from adults.  

Even as students participate in substantive curriculum-based lessons that enhance and deepen their learning, they gain intangibles -- how to work as a team; how to respect the environment; and how to carefully follow directions.
Students, parents, teachers, and other adults are more willing to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Very seldom are there many leftovers at the end of a class and most of the time, students ask for seconds and thirds.  

This school year, 3,000 DC students at nine DC public elementary schools will have opportunities to garden, cook, and eat tasty nutritious recipes together -- all while learning science, math and social studies concepts, and practicing observing and writing -- in school, as part of the FRESHFARM FoodPrints program. 

try a foodprints approach at home ... shop & cook together

We encourage families to try a modified FoodPrints approach at home: Designate a family cooking night, choose a few FoodPrints recipes, shop for ingredients together at local farmers markets or grocery stores, cook and eat together ... and enjoy!

A Farmer-in-Residence Makes Farming Come Alive at Watkins Elementary

by Kealy Rudersdorf, FoodPrints Lead Teacher at Watkins Elementary, and Becky Seward, Farmer and Manager of Prickly Pear Produce

What inspires farmers to farm? What does a small farm look like? What is the difference between a small, organic farm and large, industrial farm? How is farming a business?

Fourth graders at Watkins Elementary School this year explored these questions and more while working with Farmer Becky Seward, who runs a two-acre farm and Prickly Pear Produce in Southern Maryland.

Farmer Becky Visits Watkins Elementary

Farmer Becky visited the 4th grade FoodPrints classes twice this year. On her first visit, she talked to the students about being a farmer and the elements that make her farm run: cover crops, compost, produce she grows, and how she makes money on that produce. On her second visit, Farmer Becky worked with the students to understand the difference between conventional and organic farming, why it’s important to buy and eat local foods, and the differences between eating food from a farmers market and a big grocery store.

Because her farm is just one-half mile from the Potomac River, she was also able to give the students examples of how her farming methods protect the watershed -- and the importance of surrounding areas taking care of the watershed so farms like hers can grow healthy produce. The students also made seed tapes for her farm by measuring the appropriate distance between seeds and carefully gluing individual seeds. 

4th Graders Visit Becky's Farm

In late May, each of the four 4th grade classes took a field trip to Becky’s farm. Becky is in her third year of managing her farm business, Prickly Pear Farm. She rents the land from the owner of the neighboring Centro Ashé, a herbal education business and sells her produce at local farmers markets and through her own CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share.

It was an eye-opening experience for many! One student -- who had been wary of getting dirt, bugs and worms on her in the school garden -- overcame her fear of trying new things at Becky’s farm. She spent her day investigating ants, holding worms, and digging in the soil. She had the brightest smile on her face, and remarked, “It’s not so scary!”

During the field trip, students rotated through four stations:

Farm Tour. Students saw first-hand what Becky had described when she was at Watkins:  cover crops, water well, tractors, greenhouse, mulching and organic farming methods.

Soil Exploration. Students dug in the soil where there were cover crops and looked for  different elements  (leaves, roots, bugs), sorting and collecting their findings into empty egg cartons.

Seed Planting. When Farmer Becky visited Watkins, students made seed tape. At the farm, students planted these,and also saw what these same plants looked like after two weeks and four weeks of growth.

Chicken Observations. Becky has more than 20 hens, and the students were fascinated with them! They spent lots of time observing their behavior,  drawing them in their journals, and writing about what they “see, think, and wonder” about the chickens. Students had lots of questions about their diet, how they live, how they lay eggs, why the eggs are different colors,  and more.

The field trip, combined with Becky’s visits to the school, were a powerful way for students to see farming in action, understand it as a viable business, and meet someone who is successfully living her dream after more than a decade as a farmer.


Farmer Becky Reflects on Her Role Farmer-in-Residence

It has been so inspiring to be a part of Foodprints' Farmer-in-Residence program this year!  The fourth grade at Watkins Elementary has clearly had a few years of food education under their belt, and it made for some very fun and engaging discussions around organic farming.  That we were able to provide some lessons in the classroom and then further apply them on the farm crafted for the kids a truly meaningful experience.  It was also clear that we changed a lot of perceptions as to what farming is and what a farmer looks like, especially after we got over, "why don't you have horses and cows?"

Through careful planning (thanks FoodPrints staff and Watkins teachers!), we were able to bring all of the kids to the farm here in Southern Maryland to get deep about the farming history of the area, land stewardship, watersheds, healthy soil, and everyone's favorite: the fine points of chicken husbandry.  

Even the kids that were swatting away bugs and uncertain out on the farm were by the end of the trip asking to touch worms and beetles, and naming the chickens.  Everyone had different creative names for our two roosters!

It was also special for me to witness the wonder that kids experience when they are out in nature. It is my sense that most of the students in the fourth grade walked away with an experience of connectedness, wonder, and hopefully some facts about sustainable farming.  I certainly had a lot of fun and am so thankful to have had the honor to be Watkins farmer-in-residence!  

Using Our Noodles

By Ibti Vincent, FoodPrints Lead Teacher

“Who here has made pasta from scratch?” the chef asked. About five hands shot into the air.

“Okay. Wow. That’s pretty good. But, now, I don’t mean that you took spaghetti noodles out of the box and boiled it. How many have made pasta out of flour and eggs?” One hand stayed raised.

Chef Ethan McKee was getting a sense of his students. He could see right off that they were good listeners and excited participants, but I bet he had no idea how awesome they would be at making pasta.

Last week, 30 fifth graders from the School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens Elementary took a walking field trip a few blocks away to Urbana, a popular Dupont Circle restaurant specializing in Italian food. It was a real treat.

You see, normally, FoodPrints sessions are presented to our various schools as “in-school” field trips. Sure, the teachers are pretty accomplished cooks and instructors, but this time, class was taught by a professional chef, in a beautiful restaurant located in the Hotel Palomar -- it was the result of a wonderful collaboration between Urbana, FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints program, and a DC public elementary school.

Before walking the four blocks to Urbana, the students harvested spinach (grown from seed!) along with kale, oregano, thyme, and chives in their school garden.

The students -- along with their classroom teacher, FoodPrints interns, and a few parent volunteers -- were greeted at Urbana by Executive Chef McKee with enthusiasm and aprons. There would be a lot of flour involved in today’s hands-on lesson, so the aprons were a welcome addition to our usual FoodPrints setup.

After washing our hands well -- that certainly didn’t change from our normal FoodPrints procedure -- we got to work at the five workstations Urbana’s team had set up. Before their eyes, students transformed a volcano of flour and eggs into smooth pasta dough.

We worked in teams to roll out the dough, passing it again and again through a pasta roller. I think our longest piece was over 12 feet long!

Some became fettuccine noodles, while other sheets were set aside for ravioli.

As we finished rolling out our pasta sheets, the amicable sous chef used sauteed our homegrown greens with shallots and garlic, which we stirred with some fresh ricotta to make the ravioli filling. Then Chef Ethan showed us the delicate process of filling, folding, and cutting our pillowy packets. You want to see a ten-year-old focus? Hand him a tube of ravioli filling and a sheet of fresh pasta!

As our noodles boiled -- fresh pasta takes just moments to cook to perfection -- we got cleaned up. Class ended with a feast. Chef Ethan and his team brought out pizzas, followed by bowls of our homemade pastas: spinach and kale ravioli in tomato sauce and fettuccine tossed in herb butter. (“Pizza, too?!” I think the 5th grade boys almost fainted from excitement. There were NO leftovers.)

Many thanks to the team at Urbana for making this most fun field trip possible. We hope to continue this fun and delicious partnership!

Chopping, Mixing and Eating Healthy Veggies and Dip with Young Chefs at Tyler Elementary

By Jessica Walters, Environmental Literacy Fellow

Last week, the FoodPrints team at Tyler Elementary worked with a small group of Pre-K special needs students who had never experienced FoodPrints before.

We began with a fun, interactive lesson on clothing. Things started out a little shaky. The students were not used to the FoodPrints team, but thankfully we had a good team of FoodPrints staff -- our lead teacher, Ibti Vincent, myself, and another intern -- plus the classroom teacher. We pretended to put on our favorite pieces of clothing such as hats, gloves, pants, boots, t-shirts and sweaters!  Afterwards we talked about what you might wear to cook, and everyone got to put on their own apron to dress like a chef. We had aprons for all of them, and the kids were so excited to put on an apron their size!

We all washed our hands, and sat down to chop some veggies and help the kids mix up a delicious buttermilk ranch dressing to eat with spinach from our school garden.

Unfortunately the weather was stormy, and we were not able to take the children out to the beautiful Tyler garden to pick their own spinach. However, I went to the school garden before class and found spinach leaves the size of the children’s heads to bring in for them! I knew they would be excited to get their hands on such a gigantic piece of spinach, which they could tear it into lots of bite sized pieces. We also gave them pre-cut strips of cucumbers and red pepper and asked them to use a lettuce knife to cut each vegetable into three pieces. I think they had the most fun spinning the spinach leaves dry.

The kids LOVED counting, which came in quite handy as we measured the ingredients for the ranch dressing by tablespoon. They carefully measured out the buttermilk, mayonnaise and greek yogurt which they mixed with some onions and herbs. They each took a turn juicing a lemon and crushing some garlic. Next, everyone got a chance to shake up the mixture. Everyone then took their first bite together, dipping their fresh cut veggies into their own little bowl of dressing.

These special needs students -- like most all of our students in FoodPrints -- were highly engaged in FoodPrints because our lessons provide real-world, hands-on learning connected to what the students are learning in their regular classrooms.

The look of joy on the students’ faces as they helped each other through this FoodPrints lesson was beautiful and priceless. It was wonderful sharing FoodPrints with a class of young, autistic students.

SWS 2nd Graders Celebrate Earth Month with a Trash-Free Picnic & Bike Ride - by Margi Fineran

The SWS second graders kicked off Earth Day celebrations in great style with a bike ride to Lincoln park and a trash-free picnic! 

The Lincoln park excursion -- the culminating bike trip as part of the DCPS Cornerstone program that aims to teach all second graders to ride a bike – was a perfect opportunity to collaborate with their  monthly FoodPrints session. We used the preparation for the picnic – and the picnic itself – as a way to teach students about reducing trash, how to prepare and store items with reused containers and less packaging, and what “trash-free” could look like.

During the time I was planning this outing, the cherry blossoms were just blooming in Stanton park and I was astonished at the amount of trash left in the park by people who came to picnic and enjoy the trees.  I want our children to understand that going on a picnic doesn’t have to mean take-out foods with lots of plastic bags and throw-away containers.  With a little time and planning, we can make a trash free picnic with many of the recyclable containers we all have in our cabinets at home.  

Some of the recipes used for our lunch are from the children’s cooking magazine and website ChopChop (Lemony Hummus, a recipe by Cris Comerford, White House Executive Chef), and others were created by turning our yummy salad recipes (including ABC Salad) into sandwich filling to make them easier to eat. Ms. Scofield’s class had fun making the fillings, and Mr. Leavitt’s class was in charge of making the sandwiches and packing it all up for the ride.

To take our trash free picnic one step further, the students helped me recycle an old tablecloth into cloth napkins that we used for the picnic. They decorated the napkins with their ideas of how to help the earth and the importance of living “green.”  These ideas can feel overwhelming at times, but if we all just start with something like beginning to use less plastic bags and re-use our, we can truly make a difference in the world we leave our children and their grandchildren. We will wash the tablecloths and napkins and use them in the SWS FoodPrints kitchen for future lessons.

The accompanying bike trip was also a success! It was a feat for some students that were just barely able to ride or hadn’t ridden at all before the unit started. DCPS loaned SWS some bikes for students who didn’t have them, but most second graders brought their bikes every Thursday for a few months and received instruction from Mr. Chapman, the SWS physical education teacher, on riding technique and safety.
Many parents came along to ride and help. John Cochran, dad to Liam, had a great time: “It was a fun trip, with lots of grownups on hand to help the kids and a delicious lunch prepared by the kids in FoodPrints.”

The trash-free picnic is an example of how FoodPrints collaborated with our school’s activities to provide a fun and practical environmental literacy lesson, supported by funding from The Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Environmental Literacy grant funding. I’m beginning to think we ought to celebrate the earth for the entire month of April, not just one day, which is what I’m planning to do with students at SWS in FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints program this month.  

- written by Margi Fineran

What's in your Lunch Box?

Peabody’s  Health and Wellness committee has been working on encouraging healthy choices in the lunches children bring to school. On the February Parent Conference day they set up a Nutrition Information Station in the first floor lobby where parents could see and sample healthy, nutritious foods to include in their children’s lunch boxes. 

Included was a "yogurt bar" with apples and maple syrup from FRESHFARM Markets and homemade carrot muffins made from a FoodPrints recipe.  Also featured were  "Wrap it! Pocket It! Make a Face! or Sandwich It!" station, a Snack Station and a Noodle bar. 
Chef Myron and Chef Royal demonstrated how to build nutritious lunch wraps and wedges using a variety of food. 
Bento Lunch  boxes, grocery gift cards and shopping bags were raffled off during the day. 
Some messages about assembling lunches were:
- Buy as many one ingredient foods as possible.
- Concentrate on foods from plants first and foods from animals second.
- Include whole grains.  Avoid processed grains.
- Buy local when you can.  Buy organic when it really matters 

Kudos to Sue Bloom, Chair of the Peabody Wellness Committee, all the other committee members for organizing an informative and delicious display of lunch and snack ideas and to the wonderful Peabody Teaching assistants for staffing the station throughout the day.

-written by Sarah Burke

FoodPrints at Home

The following is a guest post from a parent at Tyler Elementary, who kindly agreed to allow us to repost her message from the school listserv.

Huge Shout Out To Ms. Vincent and her FoodPrints crew!

I got the recipe for Sweet Potato Quesadillas from my very excited 1st grader who wanted to make them at home.  We made them tonight and had a very happy family!  Quick, fresh, easy, and eaten!  Thank you for educating my kids on what they are eating, where their food comes from, and the life skill of cooking!  Always exciting to add another recipe to the weekly dinner mix.

Many thanks!
Liz Young Weeden
Mom to Alex (4th) and Avis (1st)

If you don't have a 1st grader or the flyer got lost in the backpack, here is the link to the recipe. Here is the link to other recipes to try with your Tyler Tiger(s)!

Winter Vegetables - by Sarah Burke

Early childhood science standards include a focus on studying seasons and weather patterns through observations, and by collecting data to search for patterns. In FoodPrints, students study fruits and vegetables available in the garden and from local farms through the seasons. Together, these experiences help our youngest learners synthesize these sets of knowledge to more deeply understand the impact of seasonal changes on the natural world around them.

Observing different types of winter produce.

At Peabody, the first FoodPrints session following the winter holiday was a focus on winter vegetables. After visiting their school garden for observations, students looked at the Growing Healthy Schools  - Choose What’s in Season chart provided to us by OSSE’s Healthy Schools Act Initiatives.  It provides a visible illustration of the locally grown, seasonal fruit and vegetables available in the Washington area and has been used in the Peabody FoodPrints classroom throughout the year to support students’ learning.  

Questions we considered:
What do you notice about the different seasons? 
How did the school garden change during each of these seasons?
What do you notice about vegetables available in winter versus summer? 
Why aren’t they all available in every season? Why do different plants grow in different seasons? How can you explain the differences? 

Children noticed that the leafy greens that were left in their school garden, unprotected from the cold temperatures, were wilted and frozen. They also noticed that the green leafy vegetables were in the spring section of the chart but not in the winter section.  

What happens to greens in the winter?

As small groups of children compared the collection of winter vegetables in the FoodPrints classroom and weighed them on the kitchen scale, the conversation focused on not only the weight of each vegetable, but the differences in the coverings of the root vegetables and the thick skinned winter squash. 

Weighing and measuring our winter bounty.

Apples + Beets + Carrots = ABC Salad

Mashing potatoes and squash!

Mashing potatoes and squash!

As the children prepared ABC Salad and Butternut Squash-Potato Mash,  they noticed the beautiful colors that winter vegetables have and learned about the health benefits of eating red and orange vegetables. We also read a wonderful book called This Year's Garden that follows the evolution of a garden throughout the course of the seasons.

Our Resident Expert - by Ibti Vincent

Suddenly, an excited shriek broke the concentrated silence, "I found a nematode!!"

A handful of 5-year-olds scampered over to the shouter's table to examine the tiny critter, while the rest of the class redoubled their efforts to find signs of life in their own soil samples.

"That looks like roots," one student pointed out to a parent. "I think it looks like little hairs."

"Is that a baby worm?" another asked as Farmer Zach walked over, eyes twinkling. "It could be another nematode," he smiled, "You know there are many, many different kinds."

Welcome to the first class co-taught by our pilot Farmer-In-Residence, Zach Lester, at Francis-Stevens Elementary.

Though he's been helping to design and plan a robust organic vegetable garden we are hoping to build on the school's grounds, and supplied a generous number of plant starts that flourished in the small existing garden bed at the front of the school through the autumn, this January marked the first official classroom visit of our resident farmer. Kindergarteners in Ms. Seward and Ms. Burr's classes learned all about building healthy soil, why it matters to have a diverse soil community, and looked very closely at soil that Farmer Zach brought from his own farm, Tree & Leaf. We weren't just playing in the dirt, mind you -- we were using magnifying glasses and our critical scientist eyes -- but it sure was fun. After class, students journaled about their findings. (I'd put money on at least half of them writing about how many nematodes they found.)

Farmer Zach talks soil with Kindergartners.

Farmer Zach and I spent the middle of the day, between our two kindergarten classes, preparing and enjoying a delicious lentil soup with whole wheat toast and homemade butter with the school's Sustainability Club, who shared some of the environmental projects that this group of middle school students has been supporting around the school this year: watering trees and vegetable seedlings, conducting a waste audit, educating their peers about the importance of recycling, and nurturing the school's worm bin. Zach was impressed. I think the kids were, too.

While students at our partner schools have always had opportunities to plant, harvest, prepare, and eat nutritious foods through the FoodPrints program, and we do the bulk of our sourcing at FreshFarm markets, the Farmer-in-Residence program provides a more direct link to the invaluable folks growing our food. FoodPrints' theory is that by facilitating relationships for each of our school communities with local farmers, we could dramatically deepen urban residents’ understanding and appreciation of local agriculture.  At the same time, we believe this program would offer unbelievably engaging opportunities for elementary age students in both written and oral communication, for project-based learning opportunities, and for enrichment of the life science and social studies curriculum.

What will Farmer Zach be up to with our students this spring? You'll have to stay tuned to find out!

Many, many thanks to Zach for his willingness to work with us on this first ever Farmer-in-Residence pilot at our newest FoodPrints site. Stay tuned for news about our other Farmer-In-Residence this year, Becky Seward of Prickly Pear Produce who is working with students at Watkins Elementary.

Written by Ibti Vincent, FoodPrints Educator at Tyler Elementary and School Without Walls Francis-Stevens

FoodPrints Friday: Volunteer Spotlight! - by Shana Donahue

One thing that makes FoodPrints class such a wonderful experience for students is our volunteer base.  It can be challenging for parents and guardians to dedicate time to cooking and gardening with students during a busy work week, but Ludlow-Taylor Elementary has been fortunate enough to have many volunteers throughout the school year. One volunteer of ours whose dedication is more than note-worthy is Mrs. Helen Sellevaag, or as we lovingly call her at Ludlow-Taylor, Ms. Helen.   Ms. Helen has been a devoted volunteer of FoodPrints since the program was introduced to Ludlow-Taylor in 2014. Ms. Helen, grandmother of pre-school student Maggie, has been committed to enhancing the FoodPrints experience of every student with the love, care and support she provides students with week to week in class and while in the garden.

Ms. Helen leads a cooking activity in FoodPrints at Ludlow-Taylor.

The FoodPrints team is very appreciative of our volunteers and extremely grateful to have such an adept and knowledgeable volunteer like Ms. Helen. Ms. Helen taught elementary school for 30 happy years before retiring just 6 years ago, and her talents as a seasoned educator are apparent to those that have witnessed her classroom management and ability to engage students in any topic.  Ms. Helen has a true passion for education and continues to fuel that passion by providing students with nutrition and gardening education. Ms. Helen, you are amazing and it is always a pleasure to have you with us. Thank you for your continued dedication to the FoodPrints program at Ludlow-Taylor!

- written by Shana Donahue, FoodCorps Service Member at FoodPrints at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School

Healthy Eating Beyond the Classroom

I know the focus of FoodPrints is to reach the kids, to provide them with positive, hands-on experiences preparing and enjoying healthy foods so they are more likely to choose them in the future. By extension, our hope as a program is to also reach families -- parents, siblings, grandparents -- which we do when they come to volunteer during our in-school field trips, and also by providing them with the recipes we send home after each FoodPrints class. What I hadn't given much thought to when I started my work with FoodPrints a handful of years ago was how our classes also positively impact the classroom teachers, administrators, and the overall school culture.

Beaming with pride for what they cooked! (Recipes for whole grain waffles and homemade butter on our Recipe page.)

I've been delighted as the number of times over the past two years teachers at Tyler have chased me down to tell me how they wowed their friends with FoodPrints recipes for homemade pesto or apple beet salad at a potluck or dinner party. My wonderful interns have also admitted to excitedly shaking up some homemade butter as well as preparing other FoodPrints soups, salads, stews, stir fries, and more with boyfriends and family members at home after tasting them in class. Some of these recipes have even made it into holiday meals.

Meanwhile, cafeteria staff and administrators in our schools' main offices enjoy sampling FoodPrints goodies as well, often asking students for the recipes. How proud those students are to offer the staff some of the delicious food they helped to prepare during one of our classes. Smiles from ear to ear. You can bet the kids are more likely to make and eat these foods again after such positive reinforcement.

Grownups love our recipes, too!

So, many thanks to you -- teachers, staff, administrators, interns, and families -- for embracing the FoodPrints program at our schools, and for your willingness to try (and ask for seconds of) the seasonal foods we're making with students. Together, we're slowly but surely changing attitudes towards healthy foods for the better... and enjoying the flavors along the way!

FoodPrints Field Trips - by Margi Finneran

Happy FoodPrints Friday and happy snow day! Enjoy the calm before the storm with a cup of hot cocoa, tea, or coffee and read about FoodPrints as a field trip.

Elementary schools are very busy places!  Classroom teachers are expected to keep a daily schedule with large chunks of time dedicated to Language Arts and Math.  At many schools it is a struggle to find sufficient time for science and social studies – let alone nutrition education.  One of the ways we have found to make FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints programming work well at the schools we partner with is to schedule FoodPrints classes as "in-school field trips" that take place about once a month.  This model avoids weekly interruptions to the instructional schedule, and at the same time, allows us to give students extended, hands-on, meaningful educational experiences that dive deep into science and social studies subject matter.  Staying at school for the field trip also means that many of the cumbersome, environmentally-unfriendly aspects of field trips are avoided.  For example, FoodPrints Field Trips do not require:

$600.00 bus rental fee
1-2 hours of time spent sitting on the bus
diesel fuel
carbon emissions from the bus
25 + disposable lunches bags, paper or plastic
25 plastic water bottles or juice containers
50 or more plastic baggies for sandwiches and snacks

Students get their hands right into the garden soil.

Every FoodPrints student knows how to prepare kale like an expert!

Instead, in preparation for a FoodPrints Field Trip, students walk from their classroom to the Food Lab and the garden, perhaps smelling the garlic and onions that have been sautéed in preparation for them.  They are immediately engaged with trying to figure out what they will study, harvest and cook for the day.  At the classroom door they find the day’s menu along with the list of farmers who supplied the produce and dairy. They gather on the carpet to discuss the focus and plan for the morning. Younger children might be dramatizing the “Little Red Hen”, grinding wheat and making bread.  Second graders may be dissecting tubers, bulbs and seeds, or fifth graders might be studying Victory Gardens and rationing during WWII.  

Observational drawing of various herbs.

A student illustration of the process of preparing the garden for winter.

As groups break up into work stations, parent and grandparent chaperones are greeted warmly by students. Students work non-stop, rotating through centers. In kitchen centers they prepare ingredients for their meal or snack, as well as add documentation and recipes to their FoodPrints journals. Outside, their gardening center is dictated by the needs of their school garden and the season. It might be planting seeds and seedlings in the spring, weeding and harvesting in the early summer and autumn, or getting the garden ready for winter and testing the soil. Content area centers are often led by the classroom teacher who appreciates the opportunity to focus on the related science, social studies, math or language arts content for the day with small groups of students.  

Weighing, observing, taking notes, and drawing the harvest.

At the end of the two hours we gather in the kitchen.  Students have scrubbed tables and reset them for lunch, they have swept the floor, and are happily commenting on the delicious smell of lunch wafting through the classroom.  The students, proud of their hard work sit down with the parents, teachers and other volunteers and enjoy lunch together.  Conversations flow easily about what they have learned, their favorite part of the experience, what they would like to make the next time, and what they have made at home with their families.

Students and teachers from other classes peek in as they pass the FoodPrints kitchen and wonder, “How long until our next FoodPrints day?” and, “I hope we don’t have a snow day when it's our turn!”

Listening to Ms. Finneran while eagerly waiting to eat the meal they've made.

Written by Margi Finneran, FoodPrints Teacher at SWS.