A dozen students scrambled from station to station and back to their kitchen areas assembling a pizza over the course of three days at Creekside Intermediate School as School Garden Coordinator Laurel Livingston directed them through the proper pizza-making process.
It’s one of many experiences that Dexter students enjoy in the district’s Farm to School program, which are made possible by something as simple as buying some plants from the Farm to School stand during this weekend’s Dexter Green Day event, where thousands of locally grown flora will be on sale to support not just Farm to School, but the Dexter Garden Club, St. Joseph Catholic Church, and various smaller local green thumb organizations.
“Our plant sale is largely what funds this program,” Livingston said. The school district provides the space, electricity, and the ovens but this homegrown program has to find it’s own water and sunlight to sustain itself and grow. Beginning with a simple garden at Creekside, community support and student participation has grown like a weed over the years.
Last year the program received $3,000 in proceeds from the Dexter Green Day plant sale. This year Livingston is Jack to her beanstalk-like expectations.
“Our goal this year is $5,000,” she said with a confident smile. The program’s greenhouse area is brimming with dozens of shelves packed with everything from chamomile to mint. There are even edible flowers for those who are adventurous and pollinator flowers for those who wish to make their garden a sanctuary for the precious bee. Everything’s been planted and nurtured with the students’ countless green thumbs and hard work.
What doesn’t end up on display at Green Day is fodder for classroom projects like the pizza-making experience. All of the Farm to School programs are designed to get kids in the habit of living a healthier lifestyle, and in the case of the cooking programs, learn how to be independent through culinary education seasoned with more than a pinch of appreciation for natural ingredients and healthier food products.
“It’s amazing to watch; some of the kids have never had any cooking experience,” said program assistant Jennifer Suppes, a fifth grade teacher. “It’s thrilling to see them grow things, to plant them in the garden as fifth graders, and then when they come back in the Fall as sixth graders they actually get to harvest it.
“They see it from the seed to the plant to the fruit that they harvested and then prepared to eat … it’s just wonderful.”
Whether it’s pizza or veggie quesadilla’s or some other wholesome kitchen creation, Dexter students learn how to eat the Creekside Rainbow.
“We grow something from every color under the sun so our kids know what’s out there,” Livingston said, and the program as a whole makes sure that each student has at least some exposure to most of what Mother Nature can offer from her soil with a seed and a little hard work and dedication.
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