Grow, Cook, Eat is an afterschool program One Cool Earth started this year with Atascadero Unified School District's Afterschool Lighthouse Program. In this 3-week program, students learn how to grow, fresh, delicious produce, then harvest and prepare it in healthy recipes right in the school garden.
At Santa Margarita Elementary, students participating in Grow, Cook, Eat had the chance to try popcorn. Not just any popcorn. It was Glass Gem Popping Corn grown by students at San Gabriel Elementary who grew this corn from saving their kernels the previous year. One look and you’ll want to grow this beauty yourself. San Gabriel harvested it shared ears of corn with Ms. Natalie’s afterschool class at Santa Margarita Elementary.
Glass gem, as you can see embodies in a variety of colors; you can see maroon, bright yellow, deep browns, and even grays find their way into each ear. The class took a moment to admire them.
“Who can tell me what part of the plant these kernels are?”, the educator asked during Grow, Cook, Eat.
“SEEDS!”, a student exclaimed.
Once the kernels were dry enough, Grow, Cook, Eat students at Santa Margarita easily popped off corn from the ear by picking the kernels one-by-one.
One student declared, “This is pretty relaxing” while fixing their attention on their own piece of corn, and placing the shelled kernels in a tin can. We ended up measuring 3 cups of popping corn from that day of Grow, Cook, Eat.
Next, we had to clean the chaff off of the corn. We did this by pouring the seeds from one bucket to another slowly. The corn is heavier than the chaff, so the chaff flew away with the outside breeze.
The result is this gorgeous popping corn you almost don’t want to pop, but we were too interested in the taste! The kernels pop white although it would have been pretty thrilling if it was as colorful as the glass gem. Grow, Cook, Eat sampled Pumpkin Glazed Popcorn in honor of the start of fall. The recipe came from Real Food Real Deals. Students taste tested the popcorn the week after shelling the corn.
All in all, it was very exciting to give the students a chance to learn the process of popcorn and the life cycle of seeds. Sometimes, popcorn can get a bad rep, but it seemed pretty pop-ular for the students in Grow, Cook, Eat at Santa Margarita.
What story are we sharing at county libraries? Now that you’re wondering, One Cool Earth offered “The Story of Seeds”, a 1-hour activity for youth to learn about seeds, at Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, and Oceano libraries. Jenn Marshall, a Garden Educator Manager at One Cool Earth presented to Oceano Library on November 1st.
First, Jenn read two books, “A Seed is Sleepy” by Dianna Hutts Aston and “Seeds” by Ken Robbins to engage kids in similarities and differences between seeds. Using real-life props, Jenn presents students with 10 different seeds on a plate with their empty seed packets laid down on the table. The goal of this activity is for students to match the seeds to the corresponding packet based on size, shape, and colors of the different seeds.
The National Science Education Standards asserts that observation is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. We strive to involve students in problem-solving through observation and discourse. Students then are given a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.
After the seed matching game, students are given germinated seeds (seeds that have been sprouted), to observe the structure of the different parts of the seed explore their function. Students search for the seed coat, cotyledon, and roots on their baby plant. Jenn shares, “Kids love seeing germinated seeds! I encourage holding and touching seedlings”.
One Cool Earth believes that students learn science best by doing science. Students are able to take seeds home to continue exploration and observations and will be able to draw the answer to the big question, “What do you know about seeds?”
One Cool Earth has been busy building and delivering custom garden beds for Pacheco Elementary School in San Luis Obispo. Funded by the Miossi Cheritable Trust, the project supports the development of a One Cool Earth garden, and a dedicated Earth Genius Garden Educator to support the school's nutrition and environmental literacy education. To sponsor a garden bed, or to support this project through other donations and volunteering, visit www.onecoolearth.org/pacheco
In Let it Grow by Leah Shafer with Harvard School of Education, Eva Ringstrom, Director of Impact at Foodcorps says, "While most children receive only 3.4 hours of nutrition education a year, maintaining a school garden necessitates that nutrition lessons become a consistent, built-in part of students’ educational experience. Research has shown that it takes between 35 and 50 hours of nutrition education a year to change kids’ preferences over the long term".
Miranda Beal's classroom is a garden. At San Gabriel Elementary in Atascadero, she is in her 2nd lesson of the afterschool program, Grow, Cook, Eat, where students are actively involved in growing fresh produce, then harvesting and preparing it in healthy recipes right in the school garden. During the lesson, students ask tough questions, like, "What healthier to eat: tomato or lettuce?"
As a Garden Educator Manager, Beal doesn't want to stand in front of the classroom and point at a government poster on the wall. Memorization is far less easy to digest than direct experiences of their own. She wants them to use their senses and think curiously.
But back to that difficult question. Beal thinks to herself, 'What if I say one is healthier, like lettuce? Would kids stop eating tomatoes because their educator said lettuce is better than tomatoes'? Instead, of answering, she turns the tables and asks her students, “What do you all think is healthier and why? Brainstorm and raise a quiet hand if you want to make a guess".
Hands reach up. She receives many answers:
"The lettuce because it’s green’.
"The lettuce because it’s salad".
Then, she asks, “Have you ever heard of Eat the Rainbow?”.
Some faces looked a little confused and then there are a few kids who burst with excitement. A couple of hands raise and a student declares, “Yes, we learned about that last year!”.
They remembered! Last year, Beal taught 3 classes a lesson call Eat a Rainbow and during that lesson, they drew over an outline of the human body, coloring areas that benefit from the nutritional value of fresh produce. It amazes Beal how kids make connections. She applauds her student on their comprehension.
Beal conveys that eating every color of fruits and vegetables helps our bodies in different ways. She has them think about red foods and their function. Red foods help our heart and help fight cancer. After discussing the red, someone puts their two hands on their head and says, “Green, I think green helps your brain.”
She says, "Green foods strengthen our memory as well as our teeth and bones. That’s why you always hear 'eat your greens'! But if you only eat your greens, you're missing out on certain nutrients that you can’t find in a green fruits and vegetables. Eating the five colors (red, orange/yellow, green, blue/purple, and white) is an easy way to make sure you are getting the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs for you to be at your best".
Beal continues to promote nutrition education as an educational experience such as Eat a Rainbow. She wants students to learn through experiences, and over time define what is nutritional and allow that to change kids' personal preferences.
Grow, Cook, Eat is an afterschool program One Cool Earth started this year with the Atascadero Unified School District. In this 3 week program, students will learn how to grow fresh, delicious produce, then harvest and prepare it in healthy recipes right in the school garden. Lessons are hands-on and include planting and tending how-to, basic knife skills (safety knives will be used), measuring recipe invention and experimentation, and of course, eating!
This month, One Cool Earth is at Creston Road Elementary School. Doug, our Garden Educator Manager (GEM), is leading Grow, Cook, Eat and discusses what hands-on activities students are participating in. He says, "The mini greenhouse activity was very popular. Students drew pictures of what they were growing on the cups. I am going to demonstrate how to prep some fruits and vegetables to make them into handy snacks, and then let the kids taste them". He adds, "I also had success using the older students to assist the younger students. They frequently get better cooperation".
Grow, Cook, Eat will also be held for students at Santa Rosa Academic Academy, Monterey Road Elementary, Santa Margarita Elementary, San Gabriel Elementry, and San Benito Elementary.
One Cool Earth is excited to welcome Dan Cano as our new Executive Director! Since officially taking over the Executive Director role on August 1st from interim director Greg Ellis, Dan has been visiting school sites, getting to know the staff and meeting with numerous community partners.
Dan adds, "I’m excited about the opportunity to work with such a talented and passionate staff. After only a few days on the job, I’ve watched our Garden Educators work on everything from curriculum development to irrigation and composting. They are truly well-rounded individuals. As a parent, I can only hope that my daughter has the opportunity to spend time with such great role-models and educators."
Prior to joining One Cool Earth, Dan was the Community Food Programs Manager at SLO Food Bank Coalition. He also served 5 years as Executive Director of The Link Family Resource Center, a nonprofit that fosters a safe, healthy, and thriving community by linking children, youth, and families with programs and services to address their unique needs.
While Dan continues to support children and youth, he is also now promoting school garden programs. He claims funding will be the most challenging part of his role. Dan expresses, "That's true for all organizations working to solve big problems. I think the challenge is that we’re breaking into nontraditional education environments and many teachers and administrators may not see the value in it. Instead of walls and clean desks, our classroom is alive and growing. Our school gardens are truly an outdoor laboratory; without the thousands of dollars needed for microscopes and chemical resistant counter tops. Thankfully in our county, we have some of the most open and progressive educators in our state, but there is still much work to be done.
The job of a One Cool Earth Executive Director is complex. The broad goal is to lead the advancement of school gardens within San Luis Obispo County’s public schools, aiming to support thriving school gardens at all 43 elementary schools in SLO County. But each school is unique and has individual needs, and it is through relationships that Dan determines the support, services, experiences, and inspiration our Earth Genius program needs to succeed. With relationships and strategic planning, the executive director influences the growth of children.
When asking Dan about his primary goal at the start of One Cool Earth's director positions, he conveys, "My primary goal is to continue to build relationships within our community. Like any small organization or business, leadership change can be disruptive and uncomfortable if relationships and organizational culture are not honored. One Cool Earth has been developing its presence for over a decade, and honoring its path is my first priority".
So far, building relationships are what has been happening within him, the staff, and community partners. Dan says his favorite part since working with OCE is working with Mr. Greg Ellis, our outgoing Director. He adds, "I met Greg in 2011 in a collaborative grant with One Cool Earth, SLO County Probation, and The LINK to support the garden at Liberty High School in Paso Robles. Since then I’ve watched One Cool Earth grow into a mature organization with an organically developed curriculum, incredibly gifted staff, and great partnerships throughout SLO County. I’m really happy that he is staying on as our Growth Officer to continue to expand our impact in the SLO County".
In Dan's free time, he enjoys hiking around the local mountains with friends (like most of us in SLO); however, recently he's been a part-time chauffeur for my 12-year-old daughter who’s very involved swimming with North County Aquatics.
Last, Dan shared his first memory in the garden. He announces, "My first experience was when my father planted a garden in our backyard in West Los Angeles. He was a true child of the 60’s and 70’s and believed that growing food, no matter how small a crop was a way of keeping you grounded and connected to the earth. My sister and I would help him plant the corn and vegetables and I remember the excitement of watching the first sprout rise from the soil".
One Cool Earth Uses Research To Focus Program Results
The EarthGenius program includes best-practices in nutrition education by involving students in every step of the food system, from growing and harvesting, to cooking, eating, and sharing and operating the program over the duration of the school year. In particular, our growing, cooking and tasting leverage three determinants that lead to the most effective nutritional behavior change: 1) decrease fear of trying new foods (neophobia); 2) increase perception that it is socially acceptable to eat fruits and vegetables; and 3) increase self-efficacy in abilities to eat fruits and vegetables. Gardening itself burns 400 calories per hour, as much as jogging!
The EarthGenius program bridges textbook learning with the real world, and garden-based lessons aligned to classroom standards serve as effective , engaging, and low-cost laboratories as they model many of the basic concepts in earth science, life sciences, and physical sciences. Multi-subject elementary teachers often lack strong background training in scientific subjects and science education pedagogy. By providing teachers with training, coaching, and resources, and by maintaining gardens, the EarthGenius program increases the capacity of schools to teach science effectively. Garden programs interlinked with standards and combined with teacher trainings have been shown to improve standardized testing scores by up to 15 percent.
EarthGenius gardens involve students in real-world projects with tangible impacts. The program also encourages Wise Water-use by teaching conservation habits and utilizing state-of-the-art irrigation technologies. Low-income residents are often hardest-hit by increasing utility prices, and water conservation provides direct financial savings. We promote Zero Waste at schools to lower waste hauling costs and comply with state mandates to reduce waste. Our garden programs are linked with school-wide recycling and composting programs. We process the compost in bins using worms to produce fertilizer for our gardens. By recycling, we reduce school waste hauling costs by up to $3000 per year per school, helping to justify schools in partially funding garden programs. We teach about Food Forests, incorporating ecology and tree planting with the garden programs, allowing students to plant and raise their own native trees in nurseries at each school.