We began cooking in the classroom early in the school year; from Amish bread to pizza to salad dressing, the students enjoying experimenting with recipes and flavours in the kitchen. Through the process they were able to discover the importance of precise measurements, how to work with fractions (how many 1/2 cups would we need, in order to make 2 1/2 cups of flour?) and capacity. Student researched and pinned recipes on Pinterest and procedural writing happening naturally, as students recorded recipes that they created. Along with this, they were developing practical skills that they can carry forward with them.
Early in the spring, they were eager to begin planting seeds. They were excited to try to grow some of the foods that they had either read about while navigating Pinterest for recipes, or that they had experimented with in class. We had some success with indoor gardening the previous year and it was a perfect fit with our Grade 3 Science Unit (Growth and Changes in Plants) and I was just as excited to begin as the students were.
Every student selected a plant they wanted to grow and began researching to determine if their plant would grow before the end of the school year. Once all 22 plant varieties were selected we went to the local nursery to purchase seeds. We decided to add a few extra varieties into the mix and couldn’t wait to see how our plants would grow.
Each student planted seeds in 5 cells, in our greenhouse kits. They downloaded a compass on an iPad and set out to find the south sun, so that their seeds would receive adequate sun. Each morning they would rush to the Learning Commons to check on their seeds and see if they had any sprouts. As soon as their plants started to grow they would bring rulers with them to measure growth each day and write about their plants on their SeeSaw blog.
Within a few weeks it became apparent that our plants required more space. They had outgrown their tiny cells and were started to look less lively. We went back to the nursery and purchased potting soil and dug out some pots. Students transplanted their plants into bigger homes and were pretty excited to see if rehoming their plants would help them out.
Around this time we decided that the garden beds out front of our school probably were not the best place for our plants. We had used them the previous year and hadn’t had much luck. Our grade 4 students applied their knowledge of Habitats and Communities (Science) to determine that the large tree planted out front of the school prevented our plants from growing as well as they should, as it blocked the sun.
They surveyed our school yard and found a more suitable location for our gardens. Armed with 5 shovels, a wheelbarrow and a LOT of motivation they began the long task of moving soil from the current location to the new spot. Some of the most remarkable learning occurred during this process; students worked together to determine how to use a shovel, how to maneuver a wheelbarrow, relocating insects and worms that they discovered and to ensure that the workload with shared equally (everyone wanted to shovel). The number of conversations that I overhead around math (how many shovelfuls do you estimate it will take to fill the wheelbarrow?) and science (bugs, simple machines, habitats and plants) were countless.
Conversation began to spring up around how to organize our plants in the garden. Many students had discovered that their plants had companions and that there were also threats to their plants. We decided to experiment with square foot gardening. Students researched to find out how many square feet they would need in the garden; Jayden could fit all of her radishes in one square foot while Elle would need 5 square feet for her dill. It was still chilly and rainy outdoors, so in order to plan we create a replica of our garden indoors using painters tape. The students found the perimeter of the garden beds and taped it out on the floor. We then created models of our plants and used these to organize the space in our “pretend” garden.
The mathematical thinking that emerged during the process of planning our garden was amazing. As a group, they decided to organize their plants from tallest to shortest, to ensure that the taller plants wouldn’t block the sun from the shorter ones. Then they divided themselves into two groups. Once organized in terms of height, they began to place their square feet to ensure that they were as close to companion plants as possible. It was during this process that Mariah decided to plant her zucchini in a pot, in the garden, so that it wouldn’t spread and take over the surrounded plots.
Being the tech savvy group they are, they used Augmented Realty (Aurasma) to link their blog posts and pictures to their models, allowing people to scan their models to see their digital work. We also decided to use Scratch Jr to code multiple choice games about each plant. Students provided an intro slide with information about their plant and then 4 questions about the plant.
Spring finally arrived and we combined our ability to read graphs and our probability skills to make a decision about whether or not we should move our plants outside, based on information on The Weather Network. Some students thought it was time, and others opted to take their plants out just for the day, brining the pots back in each night.
We headed outside, armed with a metre stick, twine, nails and a hammer and began to construct our square foot garden. The importance of accuracy when measuring quickly became apparent and students took the time necessary to ensure that their squares would be a true square foot.
Some students decided to plant; our kale, zucchini and radishes found their permanent homes while they decided that it was too early for our corn and tomatoes. The level of collaboration that emerged once again was remarkable, as students worked together to ensure that their plants were carefully planted and cared for. Students that generally don’t work together were laughing as they planted together, and ones that are self-conscious were seen singing to their plants. It was a rare moment were every single student was happily engaged in learning.
During the process of growing and cooking food, conversation occurred around how we could share our learning with others. We had done work already with CK Table and the students had built a relationship with Paul Spence. It wasn’t a big surprise that they wanted to replicate one of his events and have a community meal. They asked him if he would help them out, and the idea of a CK Table Jr meal was born.
We determined what jobs would be required for the event to occur and students began filling out application forms and interviewing for the jobs of photographer, advertising, decorating team, public relations, social media and webmaster. Once in their teams they started to plan our meal.
Our advertising and public relation team created a video to persuade local CKSY radio hosts; Chris McLeod and Sam East to MC our meal which resulted in their request being the CKSY Question of the Day and a trip to be on air both with them and on CFCO!
The Social Media team and Webmaster used material from our photographers to promote our event online while our decorators determined what artwork we would need for the meal and how to set up our tables.
We also decided we needed some sponsors and so the students created a presentation for potential sponsors and started to send out emails. This led our Public Relation and Adverting team to the United Way board office to present to the Women’s Leadership Council. They were beyond excited to walk away with a $1000.00 Visionary Sponsorship! Their excitement grew when we returned to school to learn that Dowler-Karn was signing on as our Cornerstone partner. That along with Professional Party Planners commitment to be our Affiliate Partner for the event set us up in a good position to be able to run the meal.
We still had the large task of planning and cooking a meal for our guests. A community partnership with Eat What’s Good chef Emily Meko and Chef Russell Colebrook was exactly what we needed to ensure that our meal would be a success. We determined that they would be responsible for leading the event and planning the main (beef) dish and desert. The students would plan the soup and salad, along with the help from Growing Chefs.
Andrew, from the Growing Chefs came in and worked with the students to develop an incredibly delicious asparagus soup, made using local ingredients. His next visit found students divided into three teams. Each team received a box with different ingredients. Their task; in 15 minutes they had to create a salad using a leaf, stem, root and fruit and create a salad dressing. Each salad would be judged and the winning salad design would be used for the meal. The excitement around the competition had been building for months and the students rose to the occasion; creating three delicious salads that made it hard to select just one!
With a week to go until the meal, we are set to prepare and serve a wonderful 4 course meal, made with local foods. The students have been the driving force every step of the way. This event is more than just a meal; it is an opportunity for a group of passionate students to showcase their learning and their commitment to their community with others. It combines their love of cooking, growing and community and that really is what they are serving up.
The learning through that has occurred though this project has been much larger than curriculum expectations, as important and relevant as those connections have been. It has been about collaboration, initiative, responsibility, organization, community and believing in the ability to make a vision come alive. These 22 little people have continually surprised me, motivated me and made me proud every step along the way. Some days I am not sure who has learned more; them or I.