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. 

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.