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. 

What's Happening at Watkins Elementary?

By the middle of next week, we will have finished the first round of classes for the first, second, third and fourth grades at Watkins. The first grade classes have each "adopted" a mystery plant, which they are observing with great interest and anticipation.  (It's a certain brassica that begins with B . . .)  Please don't tell them what it is! When they make their next observation, maybe they will be able to tell what it is (and what part they will get to eat). The students also got to pick some of the heirloom dry shelling beans now ready for harvest.  Next lesson for the first graders will be all about the parts of plants -- and what parts we eat of different plants.  It is fun to watch the first graders grapple with what seems like a simple idea to us, but is new to them.

First graders measure the "mystery plant" with Teacher Jane Hellwell at Watkins Elementary.

The second graders were able to enjoy the beautiful fall weather by spending time in the vegetable garden making scientific, observational drawings of plants. Then they harvested tomatoes and basil, which we used to make a delicious fresh sauce served over pasta (with a little parmesan cheese, of course!).  The third grade classes began their year-long study of nutrition by learning about "eating a rainbow" (and we don't mean Skittles!).  The "rainbow" snack they prepared used basil from the garden for pesto, served with pasta, along with tomatoes and peppers of many colors to eat on the side. Fourth graders have started a unit on soil -- what it is, what goes into it, why it is important, how soils are different. They were able to go collect soil samples from different areas on the school grounds, and then compare and contrast the samples, using magnifying glasses and bug viewers (for the little critters that came along in the sample).  We also conducted an experiment on the drainage properties of different types of soil. The classes prepared a delicious cauliflower curry to celebrate what grows in the soil.

Watkins Master Gardener & FoodPrints volunteer extraordinaire Barbara Percival shows students how to dice an onion. Swim goggles help prevent onion tears. 

Next week we will start the first round of fifth grade lessons. The first class is one of the most fun (and hectic) classes we run, since we let groups of students prepare recipes with minimal adult supervision.  The idea is to reinforce why and how to follow directions. It's always an adventure to see how the dishes turn out.

In the garden, we are now transitioning to the fall/winter garden. The green beans, basil, cucumbers and most of the tomatoes and peppers have been cleared, and the beds prepped for fall planting.   We have over 200 kale plants growing under lights in the FoodLab, which the first graders will plant in two weeks.  We still have Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans growing on the fence, and beans, mustard greens, kale and carrots almost ready for harvest in the auxiliary garden. It's sure to be an exciting school year in FoodPrints at Watkins Elementary!

Students make scientific observations in the Watkins Vegetable Garden.

Written by Barbara Percival