First-graders at Cedar Grove Elementary School tossed around words like Swiss chard and Lola Rosa, as they prepared to harvest, wash and eat the greens they grew at school.
After weeks of planting and patient growing, the biggest lesson, said their teacher Claire Gardner, was eating local.
“We have been able to get other lessons like sustainability and the idea that our salad was grown less than a hundred steps from our class, whereas, the salad you find in the grocery store comes thousands of miles,” Gardner said.
On Wednesday, Gardner’s class held a Salad Science Party, as part of the Audubon Naturalist Society’s GreenKids outreach, a program that seeks to connect school children in Montgomery County with nature through donated seeds and table gardening.
Gardner’s first grade class could tell you mostly everything about the greens they grew. They knew their salad greens took 10 weeks to grow and that no pesticides were used in the garden. They knew the location of the garden and all the individual farmers who put in the work — right down to their favorite colors.
One of Gardner’s students, Valery, said she did not remember the exact day her class planted the seeds, but she hugged herself, remembering it was a cold day. Unlike her friend Joanna, who did not think she would like the salad, Valery told her principal that while she had eaten salads at home, they were always green. The salad from her class project had deep purple leaves, red cherry tomatoes, orange shredded carrots, yellow corn and a few items donated by GreenKids.
“Could we have this every day?” she asked.
After harvesting, washing and spinning the salad greens dry, students sat at their tables. Gardner gave etiquette tips to the students — no eating until everyone at your table has a plate and they are seated. She said incorporated different lessons in the project. There were vocabulary lessons with words like “pesticide” and “organic” and students learned about persuasive speech by making posters to encouraging others to eat more vegetables. There were lessons in sizes and measurements and using a caterpillar that the students found in the garden, also an introduction to the life stages of bugs.
There was also a lesson in disappointment.
While the warm weather was good for the six different kinds of lettuces the students planted, the spinach had burst into flowers and could not be eaten.
William Kraegler, a teacher at the Lathrop E. Smith Environmental Education Center shook pinkies with students at the table on Wednesday. He joked with the young farmers about the rising cost of fuel and asked if they are worried about a late frost which gives rise to a round of knock-knock jokes. Kraegler said he hoped a few lifelong gardeners would sprout from the gardening experience. Even if they do not, he said there were other lessons to draw from the experience.
“Nothing tastes as good as the ones you prepare with your own hands,” he said. “Know more about your food and learn more about how it gets from the ground to your plate.”