The Schoolhouse Learning Center: Taking Root: The Farm, Food, Forest (FFF) Program
Co-op Patronage Seedling Grantee 2014
The Schoolhouse Learning Center, South Burlington, VT — Grant Award: $2,455 (actual check: $7,045.75)
The FFF Program – which began in September 2013 – offers students hands-on, year round opportunities to connect deeply with their food, food systems and the natural world. The program aims to equip students with knowledge about the relationship between food, food production, healthy bodies and a healthy environment and to support their development of positive attitudes about healthy food choices so they may identify, choose and follow a healthy diet over their lifetimes and become active stewards of the environment. The consistency, intensity and duration of the FFF activities are unique and allow students to develop a deep understanding of the local food system, learning what it takes to produce food, the link between food and the environment, and the relationship between food choices and (individual and environmental) health. Research shows that direct participation in food production has significant and lasting impact on children’s food choices and direct benefits to the environment.
The Schoolhouse is deeply appreciative to City Market for its support of the Farm, Food, Forest (FFF) program, a unique and intensive “twist” on farm-‐to-‐table. The program served over 125 students from ages 2-‐12 in The Schoolhouse’s preschool, elementary, middle school, afterschool, summer camp and vacation camp
programs throughout all of 2014-‐15. The FFF Program – which began in September 2013– offers students hands-‐on, year round opportunities to connect deeply with their food and the natural world. The program aims to equip students with knowledge about the relationship between food, food production, healthy bodies and a healthy environment and to support their development of positive attitudes about healthy food choices so they may identify, choose and follow a healthy diet over their lifetimes. The consistency and duration of the FFF activities allows students develop a deep understanding of the local food system, learning what it takes to produce food, the link between food and the environment, and the relationship between food choices and health. Students develop relationships with the local food system and healthy eating habits that can result in a lifelong commitment to making healthy choices -‐-‐ for themselves and for the world they live in.
In 2014-‐15, with support from City Market and other generous donors, The Schoolhouse strengthened and expanded the FFF program so that its activities reached students in all of the programs year-‐round. The second year of the FFF program at The Schoolhouse was a resounding success, helped in large measure by the support of City Market Members and an individual (anonymous) donor who offered to underwrite a portion of the costs. The depth of our programming offers student numerous and varied ways to understand the importance of sustainability and of their role in supporting the local food system. FFF has become one of the “signature” features of a Schoolhouse education and has been embraced by students, parents and staff alike for its ability to reach students at a key time in their life and give them the tools to make good choices about food, their community and the environment. The program has fully taken root and continues to grow.
This post from our FFF Blog reflecting on a day’s work at Bread and Butter Farm sums up the depth of some of this learning: We needed to help harvest Spinach for Corie that was then going to be brought to City Market and Healthy Living. That meant that what the class was doing was going to directly affect Corie's livelihood and customers at the store. People might choose this Spinach over another if they thought that it looked the best compared to another farm's Spinach. We had to be very deliberate with how careful we were in the greenhouse and with the plants so that the leaves wouldn't get damaged. Some of these plants we harvested may have been seeded by Schoolhouse students in the past. And later were tended ( watered or weeded ). How this was going full circle from seeds to plants that get eaten. These kind of experiences would only happen with opportunities that allowed visiting a place many times.
Sure, you can plant a seed and you can eat Kale, but to be able to have a connection to a place where you have been part of many steps is truly special and enriching. It is developing an intense sense of connection. Co-‐Op Patronage Seedling Funds specifically supported the following (by age group): 1. In the preschool program: Students participated in year-‐round food-‐ and garden-‐related activities with their teachers and our Americorps member. These activities are fully integrated into the preschool nature-‐ and play-‐based curriculum, including:
• Tending, planting and harvesting the on site garden (many, many beans were munched!). The garden is part of the preschool playground and offers ongoing opportunities for learning about food, food production and healthy eating;
• Helping to put the garden to bed in the fall (by planting cover crops);
• Observing seasonal changes in the garden and on our property;
• Pressing (and enjoying) cider in the fall;
• Reading books about food, gardening and seasons to provide context to their year round, hands on activities.
In the elementary program: Students participated in the Tuesday morning Farm Food Forest activities including
- In the kitchen, students Learned the skills and pride in preparing the day’s pizza lunch (crust and all!) under the guidance of our kitchen assistant (and former owner of a pizza catering business)
- Learned and honed basic culinary skills; for example, preparing an egg on the stove, learning to cut, chop and measure, understanding preservation and fermentation
- Participated in the movement of local produce from the garden or farm into their meals (the meals incorporated produce they helped to harvest both in our gardens and at Bread and Butter Farm)
- Tended, planned and planted our on-‐site gardens including planting seedlings during the winter and came to understand changing seasonal demands
- Sampled new foods, encouraged by the enthusiasm of their peers and teachers
- Learned about nutrition and the FDA food plate
- Explored what foods are in season and the distances some foods travel to reach one’s plate.
At Bread and Butter Farm students:
- Gained an understanding of the care and hard work of sustainable agriculture by performing authentic farm chores in 3 seasons
- Learned about the care of farm animals including their daily feeding and watering, movement from pasture to pasture, and the respect for the food these animals provide us
- Taste-‐tested seasonal produce (and voted for their favorites!)
- Learned about the way the seasons affect activities on a local farm
- Harvested crops for local grocery stores, the farm’s store and their own lunches.
In the Middle School Program, students:
- Incorporated cooking into their Spanish and social studies curriculum
- Prepared for and participated in the 1st annual PICKIE Eaters Cook Off (a twist on the Jr. Iron Chef with a focus on regional foods from China, an off-‐shoot of the school-‐wide study of Chinese culture)
- Tended the on-‐site site compost pile and collected and analyzed temperature data
- Researched the possibilities of establishing a chicken business (meat or eggs), with the (unrealized) goal of starting such a business.
- Helped with farm chores at Bread and Butter Farm to gain an understanding of the care and hard work of sustainable agriculture
- Helped to plan, plant and tend the on site gardens at The Schoolhouse and observed changes throughout the seasons. Students also grew mushrooms with spore provided by MoTown mushrooms
- Investigated nutrition, including analyzing their own (and a family members) diet for a week
- Investigated the wide-‐ranging topic of food insecurity and poverty that included a visit to City Market, preparation of and reflection upon a meal for 4 (quantity and nutritional content) cooked on a limited ($10) budget compared to one cooked on an ample ($40) budget
- a presentation by a representative from Hunger Free Vermont about the challenges faced by Vermonters
- Participation in the COTS #172 awareness campaign and organization of a Schoolhouse COTS walk team (which raised $2000)
- A collaborative presentation of individual research projects with students from Mansfield Cooperative, several of which had food-‐related themes (for example, ice cream, cheese)
In (school-‐aged) afterschool and summer camp programming, student
- Helped to plan and tend the on site gardens at The Schoolhouse and observing changes throughout the seasons
- Pressed apple cider
- Helped to build the soda bottle green house
- Participated in cooking activities including snack preparation
School wide, the community
- Consumed a nutritious hot lunch 4 days a week, including a meal prepared by the elementary students; the meals incorporated local produce as much as possible
- Collected over 1200 2 liter soda bottles to build a greenhouse to extend Vermont’s short growing season.
- Attended (and helping to cook for) seasonal meals – fall harvest, winter stone soup and spring celebrations
- Composted (on site and commercially) and tended the school’s worm bins
- Encouraged students to try new foods (a survey of elementary students found that approximately 65% of elementary and middle school students had tried one new food during the year).
- Raised approximately $300 through the sale of seedlings and granola (prepared by the Middle School students)
- Participated in the 2015 COTS walk, raising over $2000.