Chesnut Changer’s Report: Aaron Frank, Kindergartener

Chesnut Changer's Report

Ms. Bonny Putney from the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers came to our Ecology Club meeting this month. She told us that our drinking water is six feet deep and many states are fighting for Georgia’s water. Aaron Frank, kindergartener, suggested that we should build another lake.

The same day we went outside to view Chesnut’s rainbarrels. The rainbarrels collect the water when it rains. We used the water in the rainbarrels to water the plants. This was really cool!

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Tug of War over Farm to School Strawberries?

That’s what one 4th grader suggested last Wednesday, upon learning that the cafeteria had sold out of Georgia-grown strawberries earlier in the lunch period. Another 4th grader requested that next month we wait until the fourth graders arrive before putting out the farm-to-school lunch item. Having served up all the strawberries to the Pre-K through 3rd graders, one food service staff member agreed, “next time, we’ll have to order more.”

If the popularity of the locally grown strawberries is any indication, it certainly looks like Chesnut students’ excitement about local, fresh fruits and vegetables is exceeding expectations. “These are so good!” “I love strawberries!” In several cases, Chesnut Changers reported giving out more hand stamps than there were lunches bought, as more children than ever before brought the monthly item from home to participate.

Some of our more refined tasters, 3rd grade Chesnut Changers Shay Martin and Sam Grant weighed in: “These are a little sourer than usual.” “Yes, a bit sour, a bit sweet.”

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It is encouraging to see that a simple hand stamp promotion gets the children excited about eating their veggies. Though as students peer forward in the lunch line, seeking the farm-to-school label that will guide them to the special locally grown food of the month, the question remains, do they get it?

Chesnut Changer Parent Sponsor Angela Renals poses these questions many times throughout the lunch period: “Why are we making a big deal about food that is grown in Georgia? Why does our hand stamp say ‘go green’?”

Some students shrug, others ask “why?” while Chesnut Changers brush up on what they’ve learned, offering “it’s healthy, it has lots of nutrients.” And suddenly fourth grader A’ta cheerfully supplies, “it uses less fossil fuels if it’s not shipped from far away, so less pollution too. That’s why it’s green.” Then his classmates say, “oh, yeah” and jump into the conversation. And that’s what the stirrings of stewardship sound like on Strawberry Day at Chesnut Charter Elementary.

New Chesnut Garden Sign Brightens Courtyard Garden

What was once the front window in Chesnut Changer Parent Sponsor Angela Renals’ house, is now the new sign for the Chesnut Garden, thanks to the beautiful artistry of Chesnut’s CELL (Creative Enrichment Learning Laboratory) teacher, Ms. Lee Ann Brunson. (Children who are inspired by Ms. Brunson’s creativity can keep taking art lessons from her over the summer at her Art-LAB summer camps at Dunwoody United Methodist Church).

Ms. Brunson dreamed up the design, spruced up the old paned window, and brought to life a picture of the garden’s bounty, which now watches over our raised bed organic vegetable garden (thanks to PTA Clean & Beautiful Co-Chair Andrew Hirst).

At May 5th Clean & Beautiful, 9 am – 1 pm, please join us as we complete the outdoor classroom installation.

We’ll be adding tree stump seating, an outdoor “chalkboard”, and tasting board where the classes can record their reactions. Please email if you will be there!

Dunwoody Community Garden Happenings: Buy Veggie Plants at Lemonade Days, Vote for Fruit Orchard in Brook Run

WHAT: Dunwoody Community Garden 2nd Annual Plant Sale – Vegetables, Herbs, Flowers

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, April 21 & 22, 10 am to 5 pm

WHERE: The Greenhouse in Brook Run Park (next to the skate park)


WHAT: Fruit Tree Orchard Grant – VOTES NEEDED — this orchard will supply the food pantry at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.

WHEN: Once registered, you can vote daily to increase the Dunwoody Community Garden’s chance of winning.

HOW:  Visit for voting instructions.


37 Pounds of Produce Donated

When Garden Leader Carissa Malone launched Chesnut’s organic gardening program at the start of this school year, she had a number in mind:  twenty. That’s how many pounds of produce she hoped to grow and donate to Malachi’s Storehouse, a food pantry run out of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church right down Chesnut’s street. To date, the Chesnut Garden has donated nearly double her goal, having just last week harvested their largest yield so far.

Chesnut Garden's largest crop to date: 15.5 pounds donated!

Last Tuesday, under the direction of Garden Leader Laura McEwen, Ms. Landis’ and Ms. Austin’s first graders broke up into teams: one to harvest lettuce, swiss chard, radishes and cabbage, another to weigh the harvest, and a third to log the results on the form at right, which Ms. McEwen created. And what excellent results:  15.5 pounds, the biggest donation yet, bringing the year-to-date total to 37 pounds.

And still the garden provides more to share. Last month, Ms. Malone harvested 4.5 pounds of escarole (planted from seed by 3rd graders back in September), which she put in the teacher’s lounge refrigerator with a note inviting teachers to take some home.
We are grateful to Ms. Malone and Ms. McEwen for demonstrating in the Chesnut Garden that organic gardening, without relying on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, certainly does produce plentiful crops.


Smiling Carrot Promotes Farm to School Carrot Day

A smiling carrot greets walkers on Walk to School Day to remind them that "Cool Kids Crunch"

Last month’s DeKalb County Farm to School food of the month was carrots, which arrived freshly shredded to Chesnut’s cafeteria where lunch staff turned them into a carrot and raisin salad. Earlier in the week, on Walk to School Day, Chesnut Changers Teacher Sponsor Christen Ramo dressed up as a carrot to remind walkers that another healthy practice is eating locally grown, nutritious vegetables.

On Carrot Day, we missed the Pre-K and Kindergarten students who were away on a field trip, but for the other classes, Chesnut Changers eagerly doled out hand stamps and reported on their class’ tasting percentages. Several students who had brought carrots from home also happily received hand stamps.

The standout class was Ms. Austin’s first grade, which reported a 94% tasting rate, but across all the classes, the numbers were not consistently high — as they were last month for Cabbage Day. Perhaps a portion of the children prefer their vegetables prepared simply. Previously the farm to school food has been steamed or boiled, salted and served. The creativity of dressing the carrots and including raisins for a salad may have been too adventurous for some of the students. Though certainly some appreciated the recipe: “I tasted it. It was awesome!”

Tomorrow – Wednesday, April 18th – Georgia-Grown STRAWBERRIES are on the menu! Will they be the most popular of all the farm to school foods this year?

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Chesnut’s Red Cabbage: From Seedling to Slaw

In March, six months after starter red cabbage plants went into one of Chesnut’s raised garden beds, the harvest and tasting began!

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Ms. Huitt’s kindergarteners turned one head of cabbage into coleslaw (adding mayo, mustard and a pinch of sugar). After trying their school-grown dish, the students drew pictures and wrote up their reviews, describing the coleslaw and how they liked it.
Ms. Hobgood gave her kindergarteners the option of tasting red cabbage plain or with coleslaw dressing. Only two of her students did not take a taste, and of those who did sample the cabbage, half said it was their first time tasting the vegetable. She reports that most of the children wanted the cabbage without dressing and everyone who tried it liked it.
Garden Leader Carissa Malone used some of the red cabbage to make a salad for the teachers’ lounge, where she also donated 2 more heads of cabbage and cilantro from the garden.

AT-HOME ACTION: Try Ms. Malone’s Cabbage Salad Recipe

1 organic red cabbage from Chesnut’s garden, shredded
2 organic carrots, sliced
5 organic green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles (seasoning packet excluded)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Toss all ingredients to combine and serve!

Optional garnish: organic cilantro (from the garden), chopped, served on the side