“I Ate A Rainbow and Now I Feel So Strong, I Could Pick Up the School!”

2013-12 Chesnut Rainbow SuperKid copyRight before winter break, Chesnut students arriving at the gym for P.E. were greeted by members of Chesnut’s Wellness Team. Coach Lonny Dykema, alongside PTC Wellness Team parents Jo Chin, Angela Renals and Jessica Spencer, launched Chesnut’s second series of Farm to School nutrition lessons. After reviewing how this lesson — “Tasting a Rainbow of Plants” — had gone the previous year, the group had altered some of the activities to increase student participation and applied learning opportunities.

The goal was for students to be able to:

  • Identify the six plant parts and understand that all produce we eat is a plant part
  • Understand the value of eating many colors of fruits and veggies every day
  • Taste fruits and vegetables of various colors
  • Make suggestions as to how to add color to their plates.

To meet these objectives and the correlating National Health Education Standards, Coach’s team devised a lesson plan with three main activities:

Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds

1. “What’s in Your Grocery Bag?” – Plant Part Identification Game: Students split into groups, each with a poster depicting the 6 plant parts (root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit, seed) and a grocery bag with a variety of fresh produce that the children were to place in the correct places on their posters. The kids dove in, passed their bags around, and largely correctly labeled their items. The challenges were at times the coconut (seed), garbanzo bean (seed) and asparagus (stem AND flower).

Many kids asked for more

2. “Tasting a Rainbow:”  Students each received a mini rainbow to sample: one snap pea (green), olive (blue/purple), chickpea (white/tan), bell pepper (yellow), pear slice (red) and kumquat (orange). We hunted for each by color, tasted, then challenged the students to name the food. Just as the slightly exotic pomegranate was a favorite last year (and requested again this year), the unknown kumquat met with rave reviews this year. Part of the fun in these lessons is encouraging the kids to be open to trying new foods and to developing a taste for them. We also discuss why we left the skin on their pears, and why we eat the kumquat’s peel:  because the color (in the skin) tells us where many of the nutrients are.

rainbow of produce3. “Turn This Plate from Simple to Super:”  Slides depicted various typical kids’ meals (bowl of cereal, mac n cheese, cheese pizza, hamburger and fries, school lunch with chicken fingers and fries) alongside a rainbow of whole fruits and vegetables. We asked the kids to suggest how they could add more color to their meal with colorful whole foods. We had so many hands in the air with suggestions, we had to take 3 or 4 for each meal. When items like ketchup, Fruit Loops or pepperoni were suggested, we had an opportunity to compare colorful whole foods to colorful processed, or changed foods, and think about which gives our body more fuel (“super powers”).

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Salad Tasting and Garlic Planting for the Kids; Collard Green Bounty for the Teachers

Back in October, Ms. Little’s second grade science class came out to the garden to harvest lettuce and taste it in a salad. After the empty bowls had been cleared away, it was time to get to work! Garden Leader Carissa Malone had placed pencils into the soil to show the kids where to plant each clove of garlic.

Couple weeks later, the garlic has sprouted!

Couple weeks later, the garlic has sprouted!

After planting a clove, students removed the pencil to mark the space as full. The pencils turned out to be the perfect garlic planting tool because in addition to holding available planting spaces, they helped the children push the cloves down into the soil (cloves need to be planted 4-6 inches deep).

Collard greens for teachersMeanwhile, another delicious veggie was in season in the Chesnut Garden:  collard greens! Ms. Malone cooked up a huge batch and brought them in for the teachers to enjoy, along with a note welcoming them to take home future weekly harvests. Ms. Hobgood and Ms. Neal were happy to share in the bounty, each receiving a bunch of leafy greens for nutritious home cooking.

Chesnut 1st Graders Double As Sweet Potato Farmers

Last year, as part of their science curriculum, Chesnut’s Kindergarteners started sweet potato slips in their classrooms, which they planted in Chesnut Garden on the last day of school. It was only fitting then, that they be the ones to dig in the dirt this fall to see what had become of their crop.

They had planted two beds of sweet potatoes and, unintentionally, a third (when vines sprung up in the compost bed where the starter potatoes had been left to decompose).

Pitchforks in hand, Garden Leader Carissa Malone, two mothers from Ms. Radford’s class and first grade teachers Ms. Jordan, Ms. Radford and Ms. Landis guided the children’s garden work. The kids could recall the process of growing and planting their sweet potato slips, and had a blast hunting for the rewards of their work and patience.

After wiping off their sweet potatoes with paper towels, the student farmers weighed them, and divided the harvest into brown bags to take home and share with their families. The sweet potato vines (which could also be prepared like any leafy green and eaten), were added to Chesnut Garden’s new compost tumblers, where they’ll become rich soil amendment for future crops.

Ms. Jordan concluded the outing with a math exercise as the students gathered on the tree stump seats, to calculate the total pounds harvested:  31.4 — enough to send every child home with a sweet potato, and hopefully, something more. Like a taste of the feeling of self-sufficiency.