This year St. Francis of Assisi moved beyond the garden into programming that embedded itself into the daily fabric of the school’s Grade 2 class. Previously, I was a parent in the SFA community; but this year I became the Grade 2 teacher. Coming aboard staff meant I could assist this program in a way that mentoring remotely never could. Through direct examples, the community is learning just how valuable (and fun!) food literacy programs are.
The new school year began with a garden full of ripe vegetables and fruit for the students to sample. Kale, swiss-chard and some fall lettuce was all available for the community to try. The Grade 2 class became stewards of the garden and completed the fall cleaning as well as planted garlic as a promise of the spring gardening to come. The students, though young, quickly learned how to prepare a garden to winter and the lifecycle of the garlic (a great tie-in to Grade 2 science curriculum!). As the budding garden experts of the school, they quickly became comfortable sharing their learning with schoolmates and family.
Over winter, the food literacy turned to lesson inside the classroom. Here are some examples of how it looked:
- Student journal daily about the natural world. Often, this takes the form of considering food types or issues around food systems. Students are gradually building their food literacy through intentional daily opportunities.
- The grade 2 class does not have a “star student” or “show-and-tell”. Rather, every week one student is asked to contribute to a collaborative cookbook. Each entry has the ingredient list, cooking instruction and students are to tie their recipe to a personal story. Very often, the students bring in samples of their recipe. This activity has had a profound impact on connecting food to students personal culture and history. Very often students spend their weekend with grandparents and parents making the food that they then share with their classmates.
- Field trips have been opportunities to visit the local food scene. In February, students made pizza at Rocky Mountain Flatbread and learned about honeybees at The Honey Shoppe on Main Street. This spring they will walk down to the Britannia Community/School Garden to see the lovely “farm” and “bee hotel” there. They will invite the Grade 4 class to join them on this journey.
- The students completed an in-depth study of bees as a way of understa
nding the symbiotic nature of animals and plants.
- Students participated in “BC Agriculture in the Classroom’s” Spuds in Tubs Students have been growing potatoes since March and eagerly look forward to harvesting in June.
- Presents for parents are food-based. For example at Christmas students made jars of cinnamon sugar for their parents. Lessons about the geography and social implication of production of these products were had before making the packages. They shared this learning with their parents as evidenced by the correspondence I received from them after Christmas.
All learning is shared with the greater school community. This takes many forms such as informal interactions on the playground; and by more formal bulletin board displays designed to inform or by creating “reference books” that can be shared outside the classroom.
This spring the Grade 2s have once again planted the school food garden. They created planning maps and from those maps the foods were chosen. Choices included tomatoes, various herbs, kale, lettuce, pumpkins, beans and peas. The Grade 2s will invite other classes to join them in the garden maintenance so they can share their learning with them. Older students will be assigned to water the gardens in the mornings.
An unexpected and delightful discovery made this past year has been the involvement of the local community in the garden. During the summer months, parent volunteers are assigned to water and maintain the garden as part of the school’s well-established “Parent Participation Program.” Some weeks, however, a neighbour next door noticed that gardens needed additional water. He simply began to water when needed. He also donated vegetable plants if he had too many for his own garden. He assisted with harvesting when he saw vegetables that were becoming too ripe and gave the food to university students and young families in the neighbourhood. This has made created a beautiful neighbourhood feel to the
garden. Student learning and harvesting remains priority; however, when there is abundance – it is shared, as it should be. Is there a better way to teach about food waste and sharing?
This grant has launched some tremendous programming at St. Francis of Assisi. Food literacy has become legitimate curriculum and using the Grade 2s as models, other classes are becoming more comfortable embedding it into their core curriculum. It is no longer a “special event’ or something completed
“when there is time”. Students are more aware of the importance of eating locally and have regular conversations with their parents about this. They try more types of food, cook and ask many questions. It can only get better from here.