Friday, December 6, 2013

finding inspiration for food education - prairie crossing charter school

i love field trips.  especially ones that help me bring fresh ideas to our school district's wellness committee meeting which will be held after the new year!  it's perfect timing to have a meeting in january as everyone is striving to make new year's resolutions and healthy changes for themselves and their families!

our committee's mission statement is" to promote healthy food choices and physical activity in order to improve the physical, academic and emotional well-being of the district 76 community."  as a district parent and food revolution ambassador, i have been asked to offer ideas on how to bring food education into the classroom and i am feeling so grateful to have made connections with the individuals and administrators at prairie crossing charter school.  it is located just a few miles from our school district.  my girlfriend catherine organized a group of "real foodies" to travel together and participate in prairie crossing's farm to table monthly luncheon back on november 20th.  we are all interested in finding ways to integrate food nutrition into our schools' classroom curriculum and

we all toted our own plate, bowl, utensils and cup.  the five of us ate with naomi hershiser, dean of environmental programs and integrated curriculum.  she generously gave up almost 3 hours of her time to answer our questions and serve as our tour guide of the school's grounds and facilities.  i also met and chatted with chef romie auguste, the lovely and energetic executive chef behind our amazing farm to table meal.  here is a very basic run down on how their farm to table celebration works:

  • farm to table luncheons are held once a month and each is hosted by a grade level(s) who is in charge of growing and harvesting some of the luncheon's food components.  

  • each grade level selects food to grow in the beginning of the year.  a chef collaborates with the students in the classroom in a variety ways depending on the age level of the students.  for example, for the older students, the chef will lead the class in hands on cooking demonstrations (funding for individual table top skillets was obtained through a grant) and then work together in developing recipes with their harvest ingredients for the luncheon menu. 

  • small groups of students prepare and present 3 minute food presentation skits for the entire luncheon.  they also create table toppers based on their harvest theme.

  • adult volunteers help the chef prepare, serve and clean for the celebratory luncheon. 

  • anyone is welcome to join the farm to table celebration for $8.  diners must bring their own plate, bowl, napkin, utensils, and cup as they encourage no waste!  

it was truly inspirational to walk around the grounds with naomi and discover how each grade level designed their outdoor learning space.  students and teachers work together to decide how they want it to look and function as an outdoor learning classroom and discovery zone.  as you can see from the pictures i included, each space is unique to the developmental ages and needs of the students.  there are raised beds scattered around the grounds.  without a doubt, the most creative land they developed is the island in the middle of the parking lot - talk about using otherwise wasted space!  genius!  thank you from the for spending so much time with us naomi!  i'm looking forward to our next connection:)

it is so exciting to gather with educators who are doing.learning.sharing their farm-to-table-to-classroom educational model.  the common core changes are challenging and prairie crossing charter school is creatively meeting and exceeding the challenges head on.  since i began my real food journey over a year ago, programs like the edible schoolyard intrigued me and i wondered what it would look like in action.  i am simply bananas over the fact we have a living, breathing example right in our local.lake.county.back.yard.
what was my BIG take away?  that each school district has a unique footprint, facility, community and budget.  i'm so excited and energized to continue learning and gathering ideas that will fit our district's unique student demographic and facility capabilities so that we can reach for the stars together.

have a fab weekend everyone ...stay warm chicago!!



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