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. 

Garden Guardians - by Ibti Vincent

Though I have been working to build the FoodPrints program for over a year now at Tyler Elementary, I am surprised nearly every time I am on campus at how enthusiastic and helpful our blossoming garden guardians are. They are truly taking ownership of the outdoor space, protecting and nurturing the plants, walking curiously but mindfully along the garden paths, remarking on how quickly the snap peas and potatoes are growing, and yelling like they've won the lottery when an earthworm is discovered.

Take Ms. Willis' 1st grade class: since March, her 1st graders have been nurturing the milkweed we started from seed in her classroom, watering and checking on them daily, and excitedly reporting on their progress. Each day last week the morning class carried the 10 flats of seedlings out to the garden, and the afternoon class carried them back into the building and upstairs to the classroom, making sure they were hardened off (acclimated to the outdoors prior to transplanting).

Milkweed Movers!

During our Monday afternoon class, Ms. Novetsky's 2nd graders carefully harvested spinach, radishes, lettuce, and more for the veggie tacos we were cooking up in class. Others in the group delicately separated last year's saved zinnia and marigold seeds and planted them. No random pulling of plants, nor shrieking at bugs, nor stepping in garden beds. Just careful but joyful garden time on a beautiful early summer afternoon.

Ms. Novetsky's class planting flowers

During recess that day, it was  all that Ms. Emily and Mr. Wally -- our fearless FoodPrints intern and FoodCorps servicemember, respectively -- and I could do to put all of the eager hands to work. We had students as young as 3 years old helping us transplant tomato seedlings, pick off chard leaves than had been attacked by nefarious leaf miners, and compost multiple bucketfuls of garden waste. In some cases, the garden scraps were almost as big as the garden helpers....

Composting during recess.

inally, last week marked the first of a series of after school garden evenings, when students and families are welcome to stop by to help weed, plant, learn, and explore. We had a handful of kiddos and parents help clean up the asparagus bed, weed the paths, turn the compost, and taste herbs (you know, to make sure they are still delicious). I'm hoping to see many more faces at our after school garden sessions, when we will paint bilingual garden signs, plant, weed, build trellises, and learn about beneficial insects and pests (so we all know which ones to love and which to squish).

After school garden helpers.

You, too, can become a garden guardian! For more information on upcoming after school Tyler garden workdays, contact FoodPrints teacher Ibti Vincent.