Exploring Math and Language Through Seasonal Ingredients

By: Christy Przystawik, Early Childhood Teacher at FoodPrints …..

We’ve just completed a unit of study on pumpkins at Peabody through our FoodPrints program. For this particular unit our study was divided into four centers: observational drawings, playing with pumpkin pie moon sand, making pumpkin scones, and “geo pumpkins.” Borrowing from the concept of geoboards we hammered screws into small pumpkins and provided a huge pile of rubber bands. After demonstrating the method of stretching rubber bands onto the screws the students were allowed to explore on their own. As with a typical geoboard, this activity encouraged exploration of basic geometry, the development of language skills through discussion, and the use of fine motor skills. Not to mention they just look really cool!

The geo pumpkins were a big hit and were used with ages 3-6 at Peabody. Even students who usually have a short attention span stayed hyper-focused on the pumpkins. This was a really fun and engaging way to reinforce our study of local and seasonal pumpkins. Here is a link if you are interested in making your own geo pumpkin. Have fun!

Garden Education Doesn’t Take a Winter Break!

By: Willa Pohlman, Garden Educator at City Blossoms …..

Willa Blog Pic

Winter is upon us, but we’ve been keeping busy exploring edible plant parts, discovering firsthand what a plant needs to grow, conducting compost experiments, and investigating insects. In pre-k, students have been learning about plant parts and which roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds people eat. They created some edible masterpieces out of all six plant parts and after admiring their art, everyone got to eat. In Studio 4 science, students planted paper white bulbs, watered them, watched as they sprouted leaves near a sunny window and eventually bloomed. Students observed the plants as they grew watching as the roots, leaves, stem and flower developed. They created a mural illustrating what plants need and used it to record the growth of their bulbs. They’ve created soil with different insects and worms that create healthy soil. The sky features a rain cloud as the water source as well as some much needed sunshine. In the coming weeks they will be adding bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators.

Studio 7 Science has been experimenting with compost bags to test out newfound knowledge on the scientific method. They decided to see which of their two favorite fruits would turn into soil first. After creating a bag of soil, leaves, water, fruit, and air, they’ve been checking on their compost every week for some hands-on experience on every step of the scientific method. They’re still forming their final conclusions, but it looks like it’s going to be a close race to soil.

Fifth grade science classes have focused on insect habitats and adaptations.  After observing insect habitats in the garden earlier in the fall, they moved inside and mapped out where specific pollinators could find what they needed for food and shelter in the garden. Students explored what kind of food insects eat and how they consume it by emulating a particular insect eating method (i.e. piercing, sucking, lapping, and chewing). The bees received half a straw and stood for insects who suck or pierce their food. Butterflies represented insects who suck nectar from a flower and used a whole straw to model this technique. Flies demonstrated how insects who lap to consume their food could only use their tongue to eat. Caterpillars, who chew their food, could only use their teeth. All of the students tried different types of insect food (juice in cups with lids, a small amount of juice in a soda bottle, crackers held up vertically on a paper plate with sun butter, and a plate with a small dab of honey). Students quickly realized which insect mouth part was most adept at gathering which type of food. With newfound realizations about how insects eat, students created insect masks that represented various insect heads and mouthparts. Everyone will be ready to get their hands dirty in the spring, but for now we’re excited to be learning and creating art and food surrounding many aspects of the garden. 

Dreaming Out Loud

By: Christopher Bradshaw, Executive Director at Dreaming Out Loud …..

Woman w peppers sizedDreaming Out Loud is a small organization that punches above its weight. In 2014, with a small footprint we were able to have a big impact on communities and the food system through Aya Community Markets, our growing network of farmers markets and mobile farm-stands. In 2014, we reached more than 10,000 people and distributed more than 70,000 pounds of fresh, local produce from Crazy Farm, our anchor farm partner. We were able to help make this healthy food more affordable through more than $13,000 in direct-to-consumer farmers market nutrition incentive funds.

So how does a small organization make such a big impact? First, we have to thank the communities that we have the privilege of working with and within. With encouragement and making Aya their weekly destination for groceries, it was a success. Secondly, we have benefited from great partnerships with the Green Scheme, DC Greens, Unity Health Care Clinic, and the University of the District of Columbia’s Center for Nutrition, Diet, and Health. Together, our partners helped to run the Produce Plus Program, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx), and provide healthy cooking demonstrations at Aya.

Undoubtedly, the Produce Plus Program (PPP) was the key to our collective success in 2014. The PPP helps District residents access fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Through PPP, recipients of many federal assistance programs can receive $10 per household per market per week to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets. It was incredible to see the way that people responded to the program: telling friends, family, and neighbors about PPP and using it as tool to not only stretch budgets, but build new bonds. As one customer on Minnesota Avenue remarked:

“This program is such a blessing! A little bit extra really helps, last week I cooked up the greens I bought and everyone loved them. I’m going to make those again!”

PPP also helped Crazy Farm, who like many farmers in Westmoreland County, VA — a USDA designated StrikeForce community affected by rural poverty — rely on District farmers markets to provide their income and have been incredible partners in building access to fresh produce for low-income customers. With such positive momentum, we are excited about the 2015 season for Aya Community Markets at Unity Health Care on Minnesota Avenue and beyond. Stay tuned!