If you’ve ever spent time in the garden then you understand that it’s a learning experience. You often have to try several strategies in order to figure out what works best. At Big Green, we believe this approach applies to everything we do – including program development. Which is why our Regional Program teams are working diligently to develop and refine trial activities over the 2019-2020 school year, with the goal of building out additional activities for Big Green’s Standard Program Model that support our five Food Literacy Principles¹. These activities can be brand new to Big Green (and are often generated based on a defined need by our team or the educators we work with). At the end of the school year, the national team will engage in a debrief with Program Managers to discuss key takeaways.
With guidance from the National Program and Evaluation Team, we hope to standardize many of these activities to be part of our national offerings in years to come. This build-out of our program allows us to be flexible and engage with schools in a way that is most impactful for each school. Please read on to learn about the unique activities happening across the country this year!
- Garden Tour with Students and Teachers: Garden Educator led garden tour with an observational scavenger hunt for students. Allows teachers to build their familiarity with the garden so that they feel more comfortable working with students in the garden independent of Big Green staff.
- Food Stories: Tabling event designed for school community events. Explores participants food memories and how they’re connected to the larger food system and culture, and introduces food miles by having participants map the distance our food travels to reach us.
- Tasting Activity: Participants prepare and taste a healthy recipe highlighting Learning Garden produce while introducing food safety and recipe preparation skills.
- Garden Mapping: Pre-planting day activity that allows students to design a scalable map of our garden beds. Students also create place markers for the crops they’ll be planting in the garden beds that season, to support an organized planting day. (inspired by a local teacher!)
- Classroom Harvest Skills: Pre-harvest activity to give classrooms the skills needed to harvest independently. Includes garden tour covering how to harvest and eat specific crops, and students will create a plan for their upcoming harvest day.
- Blind Taste Test Activity: Involves preparing a recipe with students using Learning Garden produce and conduct a blind taste test with a store-bought equivalent. Discuss differences between the two recipes and provide information on store-bought recipe’s effects on the food system and environment.
- Garden Skills Meeting with Students: Designed to provide students with skills they need to plant/harvest their Learning Garden without Big Green support.
- Observation Activity: (In conjunction with the Indy team.) Celebrate and gather best practices occurring in schools and share the best practices with our network of teachers.
- Food System Guest Speaker: Connect a local food or agriculture expert with a classroom to expose students to their local food system and the impacts of their food choices.
- Seed Saving: Students experience saving seeds to replant the following season in order to learn about plant life cycles.
- Learning Garden Checklist: A schools Garden Team will complete an annual checklist to strengthen communications with Big Green’s team and ensure the Learning Garden is a safe, productive space.
- Harvest and Storage: Reviews eight core skills to harvesting and storing produce and better prepare schools for harvest days and independent harvests.
- Assessing Plant Health: Activity designed to help participants better understand the connection between soil health, plant health, ecosystem health, and human health. Participants will be able to identify visible signs of plant stress and are introduced to soil management strategies.
- You Are What You Eat: Lesson/activity aimed at increasing buy-in for real food by discussing what food does in the body, how the body uses different nutrients, and the different ways the body recognizes real food vs. processed food. Big Green National team will facilitate the review of this material by a Registered Dietician. (created based on student feedback!)
- Plant Parts/Lifecycle Tasting: Activity designed to teach participants about the different parts of a plant and plant life cycle with the opportunity to taste various parts of the plant.
- How to Use Your Herbs: Aim to increase participants’ utilization of perennial herbs through recipe demonstrations and sampling.
- Saladbration: Helps schools incorporate Learning Garden produce into school celebrations as an alternative to unhealthy snack/food celebrations.
- Garden to Cafeteria Harvest Training: Trains school staff and student participants on safe harvesting, proper storage, and clear labeling so Learning Garden produce can be incorporated into school meals by the food service staff.
- Planting and Watering Skills: Designed to increase support of garden, the likelihood of success, and the number of teachers using the garden by building a larger pool of school community members who are trained in garden skills.
- Observe, Listen, Learn, Share: (In conjunction with the Colorado team.) Celebrating and gathering best practices occurring in schools, sharing these best practices with our network of teachers.
- Growing Community: Engage parents and community members in meaningful Learning Garden and community garden experiences. Provides opportunities for sustainable Learning Garden care (including summer maintenance) by recruiting from this community group, and exposes youth and families to community food access resources.
- Youth Garden Team: Recruits students to participate in a youth garden team (or the existing garden team) to increase overall participation with the Learning Garden and provide mentorship opportunities for younger students.
- Garden Clean-up: (In conjunction with Memphis.) Provides an opportunity for schools to learn more about garden maintenance that occurs prior to planting.
- Worm Workshop: Provides an opportunity for teachers to learn how to lead their classrooms in creating worm castings using the workshop materials developed by the Chicago team.
- Garden Clean-up: (In conjunction with LA.) Provides an opportunity for schools to learn more about garden maintenance that occurs prior to planting.
- Grocery Store/Farm Stand: Reinforces students understanding of food groups and healthy food choices while providing a healthy “fast food” alternative by allowing parents to order harvested Learning Garden produce in the pickup line after school.
- Cover Crops: Including the school community in the transition of the Learning Garden from one season to another by planting cover crops and providing information on their benefits in the Learning Garden.
- Enjoy Your Harvest Workshop: Highlights the items included in the kitchen kit and snack preparation using Learning Garden produce. The goal is to give teachers more confidence to prepare food with their classrooms.
- Tabling Activity: Designed to support other events at schools (science/health fairs, back to school nights, etc.). Specific engagement activities will be tailored to the event.
- Soil Amendments: Involving the school in the addition of soil and amendments to their garden beds while sharing information on the importance of soil nutrients as a resource plants need to grow.
¹Big Green’s five principles of food literacy are: Your Food System, Effects of Food Choices, Healthy Eating, Growing Your Own Food, and Harvesting and Eating Your Own Food.