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Posts Tagged ‘food’

With all the alternating rain and sunshine we’ve been getting, the Kids Crew gardens are taking off!

Yesterday, some of our gardeners were able to harvest their first vegetables! Emily had the biggest bounty with three radishes in her garden plot. She kept one for herself and generously doled out the rest to friends.

Aliana had the first blooming flower, an edible nasturtium. Without hesitation, she picked the flower and gave it a taste. Delicious! Soon there was a crowd of curious co-gardeners begging for a petal.

 

Other students taste tested their spinach, kale, and other lettuces. Lots were super excited to reap the fruits (or veggies) of their labor.  

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Last month, we got kids thinking about where their trash ends up with Trash Talk and Loop Scoops. But let’s start at the beginning. Where does our food come from? How many places does the slice of cheese on our burger see before it ends up on our plate?

At Brooklyn Children’s Museum, we teach a program for school groups called, “It’s Easy Being Green.” We cover topics like proper recycling, energy efficiency, and sustainable food choices. The food activity splits kids into groups; each group is responsible for piecing together the life cycle of one ingredient on a burger. They’re given cards that each represent one phase in, for instance, the journey of a slice of cheese. Take a look:

The journey starts here at “Sunset Farm”. But why are we starting on a corn field if we’re trying to get to a slice of cheese? 

To feed the cows! Unfortunately, most cows in the US are fed corn rather than the tasty grass that their stomachs were built to digest. The cow’s milk then has to be transported to the cheese factory. That’s two big truck rides so far for one slice of cheese!

The cheese then gets stored in a large warehouse with other grocery goods. 

A truck picks up the cheese from the warehouse and takes it to the grocery store where it’s stocked on shelves and finally awaits your purchase.

Your cheeseburger can now be assembled and enjoyed! And now what? What about the packaging your cheese slice came wrapped up in? What about all your other food scraps? Where do they end up? 

Most of the time, they end up in a landfill.

Now, here’s the challenge: After students have pieced together the journey of their cheese (there are twenty cards or steps for the cheese alone!) they have to figure out how to remove pieces of the production-distribution-consumption-waste system to make the whole thing more sustainable. How can we get this slice of cheese to travel less? This activity can lead to great discussions on Farmer’s Markets, local food, and composting.

Want to try this activity with your class? Email GoGreen[at]Brooklynkids.org for a PDF version of the full set of Hamburger life cycle cards!

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In our last post, we started thinking about where our food comes from. Here are a few food ingredients whose plant source might surprise you!

Vanilla comes from the seeds of a vanilla orchid.

Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree native to Southeast Asia.

Black pepper comes from the seeds of a woody vine  in the rainforest.

Ask your students to write down their favorite meal. Then see how many ingredients they can name. Which ingredients come from plants?  See if they can take it one step further and name the plant sources of all those ingredients. This could be an excellent research project. Have students report back on their most surprising findings. (The fungi and minerals in our food might throw them for a loop!) Students could even compose a collage of all the plants in their favorite meal.  An example of tracing an ingredient to its plant source might go something like this:  Burger to Beef Patty to Cow to Corn Plant.

This food investigation could go in many directions and offer some unique teaching moments.  How do they know what the cow in their beef patty ate? Students might get stuck on the multisyllabic chemical ingredients in some of their favorite processed foods. Do chemical foods offer the same nutrients and plant foods? What exactly are “artificial flavors”?

We’d love to hear where this food activity takes your class!

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Here’s a sustainability epiphany that many kids may be surprised by. Almost all food either comes from plants or the animals that eat plants! It’s easy to look at a carrot or an orange and understand that it came directly from a plant, but what about candy, cheese burgers, or pancakes? It can be hard to make the seed-to-plate connection when your food doesn’t seem to have much to do with a garden or a farm.

Eric Carle’s book “Pancakes, Pancakes!” could be a great tool for little ones starting to think about where their food comes from. Of course, the beautifully crafted pictures in this book offer a nostalgically outdated version of our food system (think pitchforks and red barns vs. combined animal feeding operations and genetically modified seeds), but the book succeeds in getting the wheels turning regarding how much nature goes into a simple meal.

“Pancakes, Pancakes!” follows a young boy on a farm as he follows his mother’s request to track down all the ingredients needed to make his yummy breakfast.

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Yesterday, we had some feathered visitors from BKFarmyards join us at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for a program sponsored by National Grid. Take a look at the fun!

Madison and Stephanie arrived on a bicycle with three hens visiting from their coup at Imani Garden down the street. These ladies are graduates of the Chicken Apprenticeship program offered by BK Farmyards. The program runs for three months and leaves you with the knowledge to begin raising your own hens in the city! The program begin at the end of May and applications are being accepted now.

Kids had the chance to pet the chickens and asked some awesome questions: What is that red thing called on the top of their heads? A comb! Why do the Chickens peck at the ground? They’re looking for worms and seeds to munch on.

Brave visitors  had the chance to feed the chickens leafy greens from our garden. And then…

We got a surprise when one of the hens laid an egg on the spot! Talk about getting kids to understand where their food comes from…they were able to feel the warm egg! 

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these friendly hens. Have you ever been to Imani Garden? BK Farmyards offers field trips and farm tours for school groups. You can visit Imani Garden or have the chickens come to you! Contact them at eggs@bkfarmyards.org.

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Spring has arrived and there’s no better time to get gardening! If you’ve been interested in starting a school garden but hesitated because your school just doesn’t seem to have the green space to spare, a Woolly School Garden might be a perfect option for you. Woolly Pockets are hanging planters made of recycled plastic and engineered to wick water straight down to your plant’s roots. These gardens can hang on any available wall, rail, or fence at your school.

With a little time and effort, you can also build your own vertical garden. Start with a south facing wall close to a water source….vertical gardens need to be watered 4-5 times a week because they lose water faster than other gardens. If your garden will be hanging on a wall, you’ll need a solid waterproof barrier to prevent water seepage and mold. You also want to be sure that your wall can bear the weight of wet soil and plants. Check out this do-it-yourself guide for more tips on building a vertical garden.
One nice thing about Woolly Pocket edible gardens is that their design helps conserve water and take out the guess work involved in building your own structure. They also come with standards-based nutrition and gardening curriculum and cost relatively little to install compared to the price of installing some full scale school gardens. The whole kit costs $1000 and Woolly Garden offers lots of fundraising options and tips. The even have a “Contribute” section on their site where people can donate to your project!

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East New York Farms is part of sustainable Brooklyn!

Local farms are good for the environment and for us. Shipping food locally uses less energy.

Like many local farms, East New York Farms uses Earth-friendly growing practices. They avoid using chemicals, which keeps both the earth and your food clean, healthy and yummy.

East New York Farms is located on Schenck Avenue between New Lots Avenue and Livonia Avenue. You can take the 3 to Van Siclen Avenue. For more information about public activities there, checkout their website.

East New York Farms is an example of Use Less.

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Are you interested in teaching kids more about food, gardening, and cooking at your school? One option is to become an Edible Schoolyard site. The program, started by Alice Waters, turns open space at schools into gardens, and then teaches the students at the school about growing, cooking, and eating food on site.

What can your students learn by growing and eating fresh food like these tomatoes?

So far, Edible Schoolyard has one location in NYC: PS 216, right here in Brooklyn. But they are looking to expand, and plan to have one school in each borough next school year.

That’s where you come in. If you work at a public school located in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens or Staten Island, you could apply. Your school must serve, at a minimum, kindergarten through fifth grade and be a Title I school. Accepted schools receive tons of help and resources to turn their available space into a teaching garden.

For more information about the program and to apply, go to Edible Schoolyard NYC’s website. Applications are due by February 28, 2012- good luck!

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Listen up preschool providers and day care centers: the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has an amazing curriculum called Grow It, Try It, Like It! designed to teach kids aged 3-5 about gardening, food, and nutrition.

The guide starts with comprehensive background information for the educator. Then, there are 6 sections, each devoted to a different fruit or vegetable: crookneck squash, spinach, sweet potato, cantaloupe, peach, and strawberry. If you did every activity in each booklet, you would have enough material for 120 days of class! Or, you could pick and choose from the booklets to create a month-long focus on fruits and vegetables.

The booklets all start with hand-washing, include book suggestions, ideas for arts and crafts, science activities, snack ideas, and more. Students get color illustrations of each fruit and vegetable and can also color their own to make a garden map. This really is an incredible resource. If you work with early childhood and are looking for a food resource, this is one to start with! Check it out: Grow It, Try It, Like It!

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A series of upcoming posts are going to switch from teaching about gardening to teaching about food (which are, of course, intertwined) and this seemed like a good time to talk about that overlap.

To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure is a great, new addition to any garden, farm, or food study in school or the home. The box is visually engaging and scientifically detailed, yet designed for children ages 4 and up. (When we say “and up” we mean it – this book could easily be used from K to 12 in different ways.)

How does Ms. McClure accomplish this? The book tells the story of a boy and his mom who go to the farmers market. They buy apples, kale, salmon, honey, cheese, blueberry turnovers, and hand-dyed napkins. Each product gets two pages. The first, like the apple page seen here, is very simple. It introduces Michael, who grows the apples.

This page, appropriate for students of all ages, is followed by a much more detailed page that further explains the story of Michael and the apples (click the image to see it in full detail).

This page, of course, is much too detailed for most kindergarteners to read on their own. However, you could use this information in a number of ways in your classroom.

The detailed background information could be used by the teacher for reference. Or you could give this book to an advanced student or a student who is very interested in where food comes from for their own independent study. Or, you could design a great group project with this book:

Start with a class read-aloud where you skip the detailed pages completely. Students will learn the basics of what products the family buys. Then, divide your class into groups of mixed ability (each group should have at least one student with a relatively high reading level). One group will study apples, one group kale, one group salmon, etc. The groups will then be responsible for reading the detailed information, learning the process of making or growing the product, and then tell the story in words or pictures, and then present their work to the rest of the class. Students will gain an in-depth knowledge of how much work it takes for one product to get onto their table and hear the work of the other groups explaining the other products.

What other curricular connections do you see? How might you use To Market, To Market in your classroom?

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