by Kim Allsup, Gardening Teacher
Here at the Waldorf School of Cape Cod, we garden together as a community. We have been gardening at WSCC for at least 25 years, but the addition of the lunch program sparked a new level of commitment to growing food in a quantity that would provide useful parts of the menu.
Our Seed to Table Meals
Before we had a lunch program, my goal as a gardening teacher was to grow a wide variety of plants. Our harvests sometimes became a salad prepared and eaten in third grade. I often sent food home with children and sometimes this made its way into dinner and at other times a child would tell me that her lost carrots were found shriveled in the back of the car. It is wonderful to know all the good, organic food we grow will be eaten - in Chef Peet's lunch, in the Wednesday take home meals, as snack during our weekly faculty meetings or via veggie sales in the lobby.
Today, the privilege of carrying the harvest to the kitchen is prized. I hear, "Can I take this to Chef Peet?" at least ten times in each gardening class. During lunch our youngest children often look at certain beans, peas, or strawberries in their meal and announce, "I picked this one, I remember it."
Our School Sunhouse
Of course the ability to harvest a crop large enough each week to be a meaningful contribution to lunch is possible because we have a hoop house. I am continually grateful for the amazing community support and the efforts of a dedicated team that created this growing space.
Autumn is a busy time for our garden work because it is the traditional harvest season. In the sunhouse it is also a vital season for planting as winter harvests depend on strong fall growth before the light levels decrease.
Gardening in Nursery Through The Grades
Of course we are both growing food to eat and we are growing children who appreciate and come to understand the nature of plants and the work of gardening. This learning through doing will mean that as adults they know how easy it can be to grow a significant amount of food.
This learning begins in Parent & Child classes and Early Childhood classes. While these groups do not officially have gardening classes, I suggest gardening projects to their teachers. This is the first year a Parent & Child class has gardened in the sunhouse.
Here is summary of our community efforts to grow our food since school began this September:
- Mrs. Green's Parent & Child class has harvested tomatoes and fingerling potatoes.
- The Sunflower children are drying beans they harvested during family gardening.
- The Morning Glories have harvested fingerling potatoes.
- Class 1/2 have brightened the garden with geraniums which will come into their classroom soon
- Class 3/4 has had a double period of gardening each week where they have planted, weeded, harvested and enjoyed drinking from nasturtium leaves using chives as straws.
- Class 5 studied cucurbits (pumpkin, zucchini, watermelon) and drew their leaves as part of their weekly class Botany in the Garden. They also planted their experimental bed and gardened on Friday afternoons for the first electives block.
- A few students from Classes 6, 7, & 8 led groups of fifth graders during electives to get the sunhouse planted for the cold months.
- Mr. Mullins and Mr. O'Hara led the middle schoolers in pulling the roof over the sunhouse after Classes 1-8 gathered to recite their lunch blessings and sing the sunhouse blessing song
- Mr. Buskey tended the French gardens he planted near the sunhouse and the gardens near the shed.
- Mrs. Small and Class 6 continue to care for the wildlife garden they planted just outside the sunhouse.
At Waldorf School of Cape Cod our whole community is involved in our gardening program and we all enjoy the benefits of our work together.
For more on gardening and education, visit our gardening teacher Kim Allsup’s blog Growing Children.