A 2015 School Garden Review

Seed-to-Table School Garden Special Edition

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Looking back on the 2015 season, we are thankful to be part of the wild, unpredictable, and passionate school garden community in Denver. Allowing students of all ages to participate in growing, cooking, and eating their own food takes plenty of hard work from garden leaders, teachers, parents, students, and community members. We hope that our efforts to support all of you have helped to make your school gardens fertile.

We offer thanks to all of you who have provided materials, time, talent, and money to help support this program. We hope you will consider supporting Slow Food Denver again this year. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.

We thought you might like to see a few examples of what Slow Food Denver school gardens have accomplished this year. Here’s to the perfect weather and soil for 2016!

-Gigia Kolouch
Seed-to-Table School Garden Education Director

- Allie Molinda
Seed-to-Table School Garden Program Director


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School Garden Curriculum

With support from Chipotle Mexican Grill, Slow Food USA is developing a school garden curriculum that supports our mission of Good, Clean, and Fair food for all. The school garden curriculum will be published in three sections: Good will promote the pleasures of healthy and delicious foods; Clean will promote gardening for sustainability; and Fair will bring awareness to producing food with respect for economic and social justice.

Gigia Kolouch, education director for Slow Food Denver’s Seed-to-Table School Garden Program, is developing and writing the lessons based on her experiences in Denver. Following in the spirit of Slow Food, learners are guided through experiences that allow them to see and experience the pleasures of local food for themselves. Any teacher or parent comfortable with children can guide the classes. You may download a pdf of the first section for free or purchase a hard copy here.


 

National School Garden Leader Training

This past September, Slow Food Denver and Slow Food USA National School Garden Program hosted a Professional Development series in Austin, TX. The two days were filled with workshops on how to manage and maintain a school program, how to implement cooking and tasting classes as means for teaching children healthy habits, and more information on garden funding. The workshop was a great success; below are some of the stats from a post-workshop evaluation:

  • 92% of attendees already had a garden in their school
  • 50% of whom had a school garden for over 5 consecutive years
  • Only 29%, however, were engaged in cooking or tasting classes
  • 88% of participants said they signed up for the training because they wanted ideas for and assistance with school garden programming
  • 96% of attendees responded after the conference that they found the content relevant and that it met their needs
  • 92% rated the quality of the training content “Excellent”
  • 71% of respondents said that after the conference they were more likely to use lessons from the workshop to increase activity in the garden

 

Cooking Classes

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Slow Food Denver has been busy cooking up a storm with kids involved in our Seed-to-Table School Garden Alliance. All schools who participate in the alliance receive two complimentary cooking classes per year and the classes are always hugely popular with the kids. Our cooking instructors Michele and Andrea are creative in working with each school to create classes that make use of produce on hand from the school gardens and fit the age of the group. Some classes taught this year include:

Apple Tasting – pre-schoolers were treated to tastes of 3 different types of apples and then drew pictures of their apples. When asked to vote on their favorite, most responded all of them!

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Greens Tasting – elementary school kids at various schools have participated in a greens tasting class. Students sort and tear greens while discussing what family of greens they come from, then combine them to create a salad. In one school, the kids teamed up with parent volunteers after learning about the basics of flavors and ingredients for making salad dressing, and each team made their own dressing, teaching kids (and the parents too!) how you taste as you cook.

Fall Soup – using whatever vegetables had been harvested from the gardens, one of our alliance schools created a large vegetable based soup. While the soup cooked, students recalled what the ingredients and steps were in making soup, and wrote out a recipe to take home for their parents.

From Grain to Flour – kids of all ages seem to enjoy grinding grains to make their own flour, and then cooking with their creations. Students in these classes used our grain mills to grind a wide variety of grains and then created different versions of pancakes or griddle biscuits which they then enjoyed as a class.
5Tamales – one of the more popular classes this fall has been making tamales. Students grind corn into flour, then each student makes his/her own tamale. While the tamales steamed, the classes made salsa from their garden harvest.

Wonder how much kids love these classes? Here are some comments we’ve received in thank you notes from students:

“You are a kind lady…I love you.”
“I think that was the best I ever had before.”
“This was my first time eating Mexican food. Thank you!!”
“I had a lot of fun, I mean A LOT of fun!”
“My favorite part was when we got to eat everything up. Yummy.”

If you would like to schedule a cooking class for your classroom contact Michele Morris. Slow Food Denver Seed-to-Table School Garden Alliance members receive two complimentary classes per year – additional classes may be purchased. Non-alliance schools may purchase classes too!


 

Youth Farmers’ Markets & Garden to Cafeteria Programs  

At Slow Food Denver’s Seed-To-Table School Garden Program we are thankful for the bounty that school gardens enjoyed.  It was a bit of a rough go for some central and south central gardens with not one, but two nasty hail storms in June.  With resilie8ncy on their side, many were able to recover. Come late August, when kids returned to school, there was lots of learning to be had in the garden.  With a long, beautiful autumn, many gardens were able to continue harvesting well into October and for those who planted second crops or cool season crops, into November.

Our Youth Farmers’ Market program, a partnership between Slow Food Denver and Denver Urban Gardens, had a good 7 week run.  The beautiful weather certainly helped.  Approximately 28 schools participated in the program.  Schools harvest from their gardens and supplement with locally grown produce, holding a market after school for the school and local community.

Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beans and more made their way into school cafeterias via the Garden to Cafeteria Program.  Kitchen staff, in turn, incorporated the garden produce into the daily menus. In some school districts, the cafeterias pay market price for the produce allowing funds to funnel back to help sustain the garden.

And of course there was a plethora of cooking activities centered around the garden harvest.  This is by far a favorite with kids – harvesting, tasting, sharing, creating.  All in the spirit of Slow Food. The gardens rest for the winter, but planning for next year’s growing season will begin soon.  If you are interested in becoming involved in a school garden please contact allie@slowfooddenver.org.


Volunteer Days

It was a well deserved rest…for the gardens, at least.  After a season of working hard producing food, the gardens at four Seed-to-Table Alliance schools were put to bed for the winter with some extra helping hands. On October 29, Franklin Elementary, St. Elizabeth’s School, Escalante-Biggs, and Marie Greenwood Academy were descended upon one last time for the season for a garden clean up day.

Our partners, Chipotle and Kaiser Permanente, organized work crews for an afternoon of team building and community service. They were joined by members of the school community. Debris was cleared, soil turned, hoses rolled and stored, compost piles built, etc., all in preparation for the dormancy of winter.  Work that would have taken garden committees days to complete, was done in hours.  There was camaraderie and conversation and a lot of hard work on a beautiful fall afternoon.  A huge thanks to the employees of Chipotle and Kaiser Permanente.

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