The children at El Sol are preparing for their garden plot, writng and reading about seedlings and potting soil. Check out the photo of Chef Heather showing them plot #12, which is all theirs!
The children visited the Main Branch of the Public Library this week and had a wonderful introduction (by Alyssa, head librarian,) to all the library has to offer. And it’s more than just computers! There are books to look at, to read, and to take out.
The first Read a Recipe session at Westgate Recreation Center was terrific. The children all took to Chef Heather, asking more and more questions as the session moved along. They began with an introduction to the program, and then focused on the healthy snack that Heather brought for them. Wheat germ and bananas. Just ask one of those children to tell you what fiber or potassium is!
Then it was to the garden……
Kwanzaa 2013 at the American Museum of Natural History was outstanding. The number of attendees surely hit a record level, and the museum was rocking all afternoon. We were really delighted to be there again with our museum partner, and even more delighted to have our new partner from Teachers College/ Columbia University with us. Dr. Pam Koch, who is the Executive Director of the Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy, explored healthful nutrition with the children, focusing specifically on the foods associated with Kwanzaa. You couldn’t ask for a more knowledgeable or enthusiastic partner. Our thanks to Pam for joining in the fun.
Check out Julie’s blog for the details about the day
On my recent trip to Italy I was asked by my colleague, Dr. Peter Fischer, Syracuse University in Florence, to describe our program in more detail. The following serves as my answer.
Twenty 4th and 5th graders meet after school for one hour a week for a period of six weeks. They may meet in a room at a recreation center or a library or a resource center or on-site: at a berry farm, a museum, a public garden, a nature center. Always under the supervision of a RRL facilitator, the children don their chef hats and open their recipe books, and in no time are ready to start.
A member of the community has come to speak with them, to share his or her story. There is a topic, or a theme for these sessions. The theme may be “potatoes” or “water”, “sharing” or “growing”. This theme serves an underlying purpose: it gives direction to the sessions and is interpreted by each speaker accordingly. I have to mention and emphasize that the speakers–a local farmer, an artist, the mayor of the town–have all volunteered their time and their stories, and are an integral part of RRL. They are our partners, as we are all members of a community.
The children learn what the visitor does, why he does it, and how. For example, one year the topic was the Long Island potato. A local farmer came and talked to the children about the potatoes on his farm. How he planted them, watered them, harvested them, sold them, and ate them. He also told them about how important communication is to him. If he wasn’t able to communicate, he wouldn’t be able to sell his newly harvested potatoes. If he couldn’t read or write, how would he learn about a potato fungus or write his bills?
After about 15 minutes the speaker leaves and the children open their recipe books. It’s time to write, this time the topic is related to the farmer’s talk. The facilitator may provide direction here. She may prompt with a suggestion. Write a story about three children who visit a potato farm and what happened when the farmer handed each one of them a hoe; or write a story about manure. Depending on the circumstances and the session(s), the children may write in groups, or read out loud alone or together; they may illustrate their stories. They communicate and share, they build on what they know, and they have fun learning.
Another speaker from community was the mayor of the town who was raised in Ireland where they eat a lot of potatoes. The mayor recounted his story and finished by explaining why communicating was so important to him. How could he be the mayor of their town if he couldn’t communicate with the people who lived in it?
As the week’s progress the children learn more not only about the potato, but about their community and the people in it. What people do, how and why they do it, how and why communicating–reading and writing and speaking–is so important. And each week they are challenged to write, and they do alone or jointly following the guidance of the facilitator.
A “graduation” celebration follows. An announcement is placed in the local newspaper, posted on the website, mentioned at school. All members of the community are invited. All the guest speakers arrive. It may be a Saturday morning, they have assembled at the local public library. The children and their parents and caregivers, lots of friends. The children put on their chef hats and open their books, stand up together or alone, and begin to read.