For many people, it’s hard to imagine witnessing children clamour for more vegetables. But to Andrew Fleet and his team of volunteer chefs and community members, it’s so common they don’t even show a hint of amazement. CYN has partnered with Growing Chefs! Ontario to deliver the highly successful vegetable gardening project at St. Anne Catholic School, in the CYN Literacy Demonstration Neighbourhood.
This urban agricultural program for grade 3 students focuses on healthy eating, and as Fleet says, “gets kids excited about eating real food!” Over four class visits, children plant and tend an indoor vegetable garden, learn about the life cycle and parts of vegetables, nutrition, and food preparation. The final class involves harvesting the produce, food preparation, and of course, eating the fruits, or veggies in this case, of that labour. Every student was fully engaged in the whole process, from hand washing, to food preparation, to clean up and meal set up. It was a truly collaborative effort. This is a natural application of teambuilding, in these times when bullying is such a concern!
The impact on students is multifaceted. The students use real world applications to confidently incorporate new vocabulary, read and work through a recipe, and discuss a variety of topics related to growing, preparing, cooking, and eating food. They learn the fundamentals of gardening – planting, watering, and of course weeding. For example, harvesting baby lettuce is tricky – but the students became adept at carefully pulling out only some leaves instead of the whole plant, enabling the rest to provide a lovely meal for another day. Not only does Growing Chefs provide hands on learning about growing food, healthy eating, and cooking, but also it is grounded in literacy and numeracy skills. Learning opportunities that are activity based and incorporate multifaceted skills, such as the Growing Chefs! program, ensure that the skills developed are sustainable and carry over into other areas of life.