East Village Third Graders Turn Garden ‘Mystery Baskets’ into Imaginative, Delicious Dishes

The Children’s Garden at Campos Community Garden just completed its FIFTH season of growing food, engaging the community and teaching and feeding kids from local schools, local youth organizations like the Boys Club, summer camps and group homes. As we have in seasons past, we hosted neighborhood kids, including campers from area summer programs, and produced a heck of a lot of delicious food. 

After a fabulous summer program with Campos Campers, we started our fall program with our next-door neighbor Children’s Workshop School. NYC Foodscape once again partnered with Garden Stories Leadership Workshops to offer several interdisciplinary workshops for 48 third graders.  The workshops focused on “gardening, team building, community building, learning about nature, cooking and creative expression.”  Our goals:

1. Heighten the children’s curiosity about gardening and nature
2. Promote healthier lifestyles by learning more about food sources
3. Increase children’s self-confidence and ability to work with others
4. Strengthen the ties between the school children, their parents, broader East Village community and the Campos Garden

Here are the highlights of this innovative and highly successful program:

What is a Community Garden: Intro to Garden Basics

The children learned a bit of history of New York City community gardens and some gardening basics. Then divided into teams, the kids explored the garden using a guide sheet utilizing sight, touch, smell to differentiate the different vegetables and flowers found in each plot. The children also planted a winter crop of kale and carrots. Some of the activities in the activity sheet or “scavenger hunt” included: 

  • Find the tallest plant in the garden. Draw a picture of it in your notebook and name the plant.
  • Pick 3 leaves that have different shapes. Glue or tape them into your notebook with the name of the plant.
  • Find a leaf on the ground. Place it below and lay a square of tracing paper over the leaf. Rub it with a crayon or colored pencil (use any color you wish). Continue until you’ve rubbed over the entire leaf.
  • Find each of these herbs  in the garden. See if you can name them. Then, using your senses (sight, smell, taste, touch), describe three things about these plants as you experience them.
  • Find a plant in the garden that attracts pollinators and write the name below:
  • Pick up a handful of garden waste (dead leaves, stems, etc.) and place them in the compost bin.

The Magic Powers of Incredible Insects

With the help of licensed creative art therapist Gladys Cortez Feliciano, the children created incredible insects and decide what special power feature their insects have to help the garden grow. Campos Community Garden displayed their work as part of the the LUNGs Arts Festival on Sept. 23 and again as part of the School’s fall festival on October 15. 

The Fun and “Mystery” of Cooking 

This season culminated a couple of weeks ago with our very fun Garden Mystery basket program. Teams of third graders opened surprise bags of various combinations of produce and herbs that grow in our garden, and then working together, brainstormed, prepared, named and “styled” a dish designed not to feed themselves, but to feed the other teams. It was an amazing example of seed to plate, using almost every skill, including cooperation and teamwork, that a young person needs to develop into a self-sufficient, healthy and engaged citizen. The twist of this cooking class was that each team was not making something for themselves, but for the other team at their table.

After a warm-up of word association, starting with the word “healthy,” the class broke up into four teams of six kids each, with adorable team names of Team Ant, Team Bumblebee, Team Butterfly and Team Dragonfly. Each team got a bag with five vegetables, herbs, and basic prep equipment like cutting boards, kid-friendly knives, spoons, mixing bowls, and trays. So the Ants made a dish for the Bumblebees, and vice versa. Same went for the Butterflies and Dragonflies. Here’s what each team got to use to create each of their dishes: 

Team Vegetable #1 Vegetable #2 Vegetable #3 Vegetable #4 Vegetable #5 Herbs
Ants Zucchini Roasted Tomato Edamame Corn Sauteed Swiss Chard Cilantro
Bumblebees Cucumber Tomato Watermelon Zucchini Lettuce Mint
Butterflies Swiss Chard Sauteed Pepper Tomato Roasted Eggplant Edamame Basil
Dragonflies Cucumber Bell Pepper Lettuce Strawberry Grilled Zucchini Basil

The vegetables in each bag were mostly raw and whole, but most of the teams got a version of a vegetable cooked in some way, such as roasted eggplant or sautéed Swiss chard. This gave the kids the opportunity to taste the same vegetable both ways and understand how their flavors differ upon cooking. Because it was mid-Fall, much of the actual produce in the Children’s Garden was past season. But with the help of East Village’s Gnocco Restaurant and Chef Gianluca Giovannetti, all of the vegetables we gave the kids were the same type we grew this summer in the garden. Thank you Chef!! 

We also set up a nearby table with some staples that the kids could use to add flavor, dressing, tang, including olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, kosher salt, several types of pepper, lemons, parmesan cheese and some surprise herbs and ingredients like nasturtium leaves and blossoms:

The kids had about 40 minutes to decide amongst themselves what to make, and to divide up the tasks among the team members. 

Here’s a short video of Team Ant discussing what to make: Kids Prepping at Campos.

 

Here are some photos of the kids prepping their dishes: 

The Finished Products
After cleaning up their stations, each team presented their dish to the class as a whole, with its name, its ingredients and why they made it. They then gave it to their paired team, who also shared their dish. Then the tasting began. The reactions were almost universally ecstatic. The children discovered that healthy food like fruits and vegetables are delicious. Kids who never tasted vegetables loved the dishes that their classmates made for them, gave positive feedback and even compared some of the dishes to food they have seen on reality TV cooking shows. A few kids reported that they helped or wanted to start helping their parents prepare dinner.

Here’s a video of Team Butterfly’s description of their dish, the MooChetta: 

How Do We Build Community?

The program ended with a workshop focused on building awareness among the children on the different types of communities. The children reflected on their experiences in the garden by creating a team story which they performed for each other. This workshop was led by Linda Gelman, Master Storyteller and Producer, and a founding member of the legendary improvisation company, Chicago City Limits, located in New York City. 

Thank you to Garden Stories Leadership Workshops, Arts Loisaida, Children’s Workshop Garden and Citizen’s Community of New York City for their hard work, support, planning and partnership with NYC Foodscape to create this amazing program! 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *