FoodCorps members assembling garden beds.
This post is written by Adriana Perez, our FoodCorps member who is partnered with the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders (PS457)/the Family School (PS443). Adriana will dedicate a year of service to engaging students and teachers in creating a school wide culture of health through experiential learning in their school garden, cafeteria and classroom.
Since starting my service year at the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders and The Family School in the Southwest Bronx, I have been focusing on three pathways to create a school-wide culture of health: rebuilding and expanding the school gardens, exposing students to a variety of fruits and vegetables, and implementing a gardening, cooking and tasting curriculum that inspires and engages each and every student. This past winter, all 17 NY FoodCorps cohort members participated in a day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Using wood donated by Grow NYC, we created eight garden beds in the new community garden at The Family School and the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders.
Both schools will share the garden. This new garden space will also be used as an outdoor classroom, where students can grow food, explore and relax. The community garden will also provide a source of fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables to families inside and outside of the school.
Throughout the school year, I have held 10 school-wide cafeteria taste tests, including 2 taste tests hosted by George Edwards from the NYC Department of Education Office of Food and Nutrition Services. The taste tests have given every student in the school a chance to be exposed to a variety of food. Foods we have tried include: roasted acorn squash, pomegranate seeds, roasted parsnips and herbed potatoes, plant-part stir fry, rainbow carrots and farro.
Each month, students voted that they “Tried it,” “Liked it,” or “Loved it,” creating, in some instances, fierce debate amongst students on whether or not the food receiving the “loved it” vote was truly worthy. (Spoiler: it usually was).
Worms are our friends!
Inside the classroom, students have been learning every facet of healthy eating. The favorite lesson by far, has been about worms. All of my students, from Kindergarten to Fourth Grade, love finding and touching and learning about worms, and their role in giving us healthy food. One of our favorite mantras, “worms are our friends,” is now most commonly used when someone says, “worms are gross.” Students have been working to understand the relationship between worms and the earth, their role in our gardens and how they too contribute to human health through plants!
With summer here, the garden is full of activity. While still being improved by adding mulch, perennials and seedlings, students are already utilizing the garden spaces during class and after school. With abundant planting and cultivation, these garden spaces will soon be a cornerstone of Sheridan Academy and The Family School’s school-wide culture of health.