Vermont School Garden

A visit to a Vermont public school garden through the seasons.


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A Shout Out to Some Community Volunteers

Amy Rice Sciacca making popcorn for the schools.

Amy Rice Sciacca making popcorn for the schools.

Every Thursday, parent Amy Sciacca, comes into school with her young son and makes popcorn for the Westminster Schools’ healthy snack program. (Amy’s mother was once a school board member.) This says quite a bit about the generosity of our parents in this  community. If we look back, the popcorn machine itself was donated by Barbara Sherrod and Mark Steinhardt, when their grandchildren (now in high school) were elementary students here!

Community volunteers have played a large role at the Westminster schools for generations. They continue to quietly leave their mark.

Below, Kathleen Hacker from the Master Gardener Program, helps with measuring during an After School Cooking lesson. She’s modeling much more than measuring here!

measuring yogurt

measuring yogurt

 


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Garden Designing and Pizza: Celebrating Last Year and Planning for the Future

checking into catalogs

checking into catalogs

Second graders had a lesson in designing, writing and cooking early this month! Together, they  brainstormed a dream list of what they wanted to include in this year’s garden. Then they got to work  creating garden  designs.  Some of them were very impressive. We used group discussion and seed catalogs to inspire their creations. Students were challenged to write purposefully about their drawings using a ‘hook’ to encourage their audience to read through their pieces. They also had to check in on their use of details and punctuation. All in all, this kept them  dreaming and focused  while small groups went to the kitchen to create pizzas for the class. You could hear the quiet buzz as they worked and shared their garden plans with each other. See examples of their writing below. it’s also on display in the hallway at school. (Click on any image to enlarge.)

Ann BT class garden dreaming writinggarden designgarden writingHow would you like to see my garden?Have you ever made a dream garden?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, we remembered last years’ tomatoes, garlic and basil……

rolling doughpizzza sauce spreadingdisplaying pizza ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for Recipes:  Homemade Pizza Dough Recipe  PIZZA TOPPINGS


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Let the Garden Dreaming Begin

creating garden designs

creating garden designs

While our Vermont garden sleeps under a blanket of deep snow, the children at school are creating their dream designs for Planting Day, 2015. We’re also incorporating the wishes of our kitchen chef, Kim Kinney. She’d like more onions, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, beets and summer squash. Each developmental age brings its own special style of dreams to our garden planning. Older students made a list of vegetables on a white board for younger students to copy. I’m hoping to enlist as many classes as possible in the planning process. For older children there are opportunities to plan for space and graph to scale. For younger students, thinking about whether to draw vegetables growing above or under the ground might be challenge enough. For all children this presents a real world chance to create a dream plan in written form and to share it with their peers.

Kathleen and Katalina'sdesign

Kathleen and Katalina’s design

Casie and Ben's design

Casie and Ben’s design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping this week are our Master Gardener candidate, Kathleen Hacker and a new summer Keene State College Dietician intern, Casie Reynolds. Casie and another student intern will be working with children during our summer school program in July and August 2015.

Before we began our garden maps, students and teachers created a low cost delicious lentil soup using some of our own garden onions, garlic, carrots and tomatoes and a few locally grown veggies. (See recipe below)

Recipe: Winter Lentil Vegetable Soup

Chopping veggies

dicing veggiesgrating cabbage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stirring the soup

stirring the soup


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POTATO PANCAKES IN DECEMBER

Grating potato

Grating potato

It’s lots of fun to grate potatoes and crack eggs, but the real fun is in gobbling up these mid-winter treats. Potato pancakes are associated with cuisines of many European and Middle Eastern century-old traditions including Austrian (as Kartoffelpuffer or “Erdäpfelpuffer”), Belarusian (as дранікі draniki), Czech (as bramborák or cmunda), German (as Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen), Hungarian (as tócsni and other names), Iranian, Jewish (as latkes or latkas, Yiddish: לאַטקעס, Hebrew: לביבה levivah, plural לביבות levivot), Latvian (as kartupeļu pankūkas), Lithuanian (as bulviniai blynai), Luxembourg (Gromperekichelcher), Polish (as placki ziemniaczane), Russian (as draniki, драники), Slovak (as zemiakové placky,haruľa or nálečníky), Ukrainian (as deruny, деруни) and any other cuisines which have adopted similar dishes. It is the national dish of Belarus. In Germany, potato pancakes are eaten either salty (as a side dish) or sweet with apple sauce, blueberries, sugar and cinnamon; they are a very common menu item during outdoor markets and festivals in colder seasons. In Swiss cuisine, the Rösti differs insofar as it never contains egg or flour. It is a traditional favorite in southern Indiana during holiday festivities.

Fried in oil until golden and sometimes served with sour cream and applesauce, there are few children or adults who would refuse a second or third helping. (By the way, our potatoes were grown in our own WCS garden. ) After the potatoes are grated on a clean kitchen towel, it’s interesting for children to see how much water can be squeezed out of them. When the water is removed and eggs, salt , grated onion and a little bit of flour are added, potato pancakes cook quickly to an even golden brown. Click on the recipe below! Here are some more pictures of Emily Clark and Sheryl Miller’s Westminster West students making latkes:

Recipe: Potato Pancakes

drying grated potato

drying grated potato

Grating potatoes

Grating potatoes

using a peeler

using a peeler

thumbs up for potato pancakes

thumbs up for potato pancakes


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Garlic and Pizza

simmering last year's tomatoes

simmering last year’s tomatoes

Now we can use our garlic, herbs  and tomatoes to make yummy pizzas. All we need is a basic pizza dough, cheese, toppings and a little time.

Pizza dough can be made ahead…even frozen (and thawed a half day before you need it). All you need are flour, salt yeast,  oil, water and a warm place for the dough to rise. 1 teaspoon of yeast dissolved in 1 1/3 cup of warm water until bubbly (5 minutes). Add 1 tsp salt, 2 Tb. oil and 4 cups of flour (or enough to create dough that feels like play dough). Knead the dough a bit (8 min) until it feels smooth and then set it back into a greased bowl. Find a warm place for the dough to rise for 3 hours. Cover it first with plastic wrap. When it doubles in size, you can put it into a zip-lock freezer bag and freeze it or roll it out right away on a floured board to make pizza! (Makes about a cookie sheet sized pizza.)

flour, yeast, salt oil and water- pizza dough

flour, yeast, salt oil and water- pizza dough

garlic cloves

onion for sauce

onion for sauce

stretching pizza dough

stretching pizza dough

last year's pesto and tomatos

last year’s pesto and tomatos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thawed our frozen tomatoes (see above) and pesto from last summer’s garden and spilled off some of the liquid from the top of the thawed tomatoes. We sauteed garlic and onions and added the tomatoes and  some garden oregano. After the sauce boiled down (15 minutes) I used a wand to blend it. This makes it more smooth and palatable for the youngest children.

The rest of pizza making its just prep work: slicing whatever favorite veggies and cheeses go on top, rolling out the dough and spreading on the toppings. I use a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease to make a thin pizza dough. Keep adding flour as your roll.The kids added some ground flint cornmeal to the greased pizza pans before putting the dough in. This gives the dough a cushion of air to rest on while cooking and helps it to become crisp.

adding cheese

adding cheese

slicing onions for pizza topping

slicing onions for pizza topping

spreading tomato sauce

spreading tomato sauce

everyone gets a slice

everyone gets a slice

fantasy-pizza-template-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire up the oven to 500 and when it’s hot, put in your assembled pizza. It doesn’t take long to cook. The only snafu is having to wait for it to cool before you can sink your teeth into it! While you’re waiting, click on the ‘fantasy pizza’ template and go wild designing your own pizza!


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Cooking With Toddlers: Easy Banana Bread

playing with the batter

playing with the batter

You’ve all had bananas sitting on your counter that look as if they’re ready for the trash bin. But, not so fast. It’s January in Vermont and you’re stuck indoors with a bored toddler. Here’s what you can do: make banana bread. Be sure to have all of your ingredients ready, and then follow the simple recipe below. You can decrease the sugar by half and still have a yummy snack. (We put one loaf in the freezer and then gobbled up the other one.)

Download: Banana Bread Recipe

those overripe bananas

those overripe bananas

mashing babanas

mashing babanas

mixing eggs, oil, sugar and bananas

mixing eggs, oil, sugar and bananas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

measuring dry ingredients

measuring dry ingredients

adding dry ingredients to wet

adding dry ingredients to wet

finished banana bread

finished banana bread

 


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Cooking Fun and Marketing Skills 101

commercial for pumpkin choco-chip cookies

commercial for pumpkin choco-chip cookies

How would you market pumpkin chocolate chip cookies? Fifth and Sixth graders had a chance to team up and show off their advertising skills when we made chocolate chip pumpkin cookies in December. Students in this class had chosen cooking as a pre-vacation activity. We did plenty of cooking and while the oven baked our fries and cookies, we cooked up some enticing ads for our edible products.

The pumpkin cookies featured the last of our garden pumpkins. They weren’t doing very well in cold storage by the end of December, so I cooked them down in a 350 degree oven. First I cut them in half and removed the seeds. Then I lined a cookie sheet with foil and added 1/2 cup of water. The pumpkin halves, placed upside down, steam in their skins. After about 40 minutes or when tender to the touch, remove pumpkins from the oven. Let them cool a bit and scrape out the pulp. It can easily be mashed and stored in plastic bags in the freezer for future use in any recipe calling for mashed/canned pumpkin. Recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

checking measurements

checking measurements

checking measurements

beating butter

even older kids are cautious when cracking eggs

even older kids are cautious when cracking eggs

stored pumpkins over time

stored pumpkins over time

salvaged pumpkins

salvaged pumpkins

sharing our "Life of Potato" stories

sharing our “Life of Potato” stories


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Diggin’ Potatoes

Potato Latkesfrying latkes

We still have lots of potatoes stored at Harlow Farm and they’re a great source for scientific theory. Our question for this class of “Science You Can Eat,” was: “Do you think potatoes have water in them and why or why not?” This is a question loaded with potential for empirical response especially among the six and seven year olds. response potato questonsOne response: Yes because they need water to grow. Here is an opportunity to record and test out theory for perhaps one of the first times.

By the way, many potatoes are 80% water! We peeled and grated our potatoes. Then we spread them on a clean cloth napkin and sprinkled them with salt. The salt draws the water from the potatoes. We then rolled the napkins tight and squeezed out the water. Magic! All that water from summer growth was indeed stored inside the potatoes. The rest of the potato is mostly starch, though I’m guessing you knew that already. The average potato also contains small amounts of simple sugars, which are important for developing the golden-brown color of fried and roasted potatoes. Overall, a potato has a lower carbohydrate content than other roots and tubers and a plain boiled potato has less calories than the equivalent weight of plain boiled rice, pasta or bread.  It’s said that when men were dying from scurvy during the Klondike Gold Rush, potatoes were sold for their weight in gold. This is because potatoes were, and are, a very good source of vitamin C. 1/4 lb. of freshly harvested spuds, boiled in their skins, gives about 50% of an adult’s typical recommended daily intake.
After School Cooks then combined the grated potatoes with flour, eggs, onion and other ingredients to make potato pancakes.

We ate our pancakes with homemade applesauce. No one could eat enough of these yummy treats. The recipe is at the bottom of this post.

using a peelergrating teamusing peelers

testing out water in potato theory

testing out water in potato theory

learning to crack eggsoldest get to cook

apple sauce and latkesRecipe: Potato Latkes


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The Great January Potato Bake-Off

Last week those fifth graders who were pictured harvesting their potato crop in a fall blog entry became potato culinary experts. I brought them cleanly scrubbed potatoes…enough for the entire class. I would like them to experience the whole process of preparing potatoes harvested  from the garden, but most classrooms are not equipped with easy access to water. When I brought these potatoes from the farm to my sink at home, they were coated with  a dusting of the soil in which they grew. This helped to preserve them for the last few months. Our school chef, Kim Kinney, generously allowed us access to the kitchen oven during a slow time. We used the Dining Hall as a prep station.

Students came from their classrooms in small group rotations. They got to work on their response sheets, choosing which type of marinade they preferred and then carefully slicing their potatoes into eights.

choosing marinades

choosing marinades

Some students needed to confirm their choices by smelling the marinades.

dipping potato wedges

dipping potato wedges

marinade scent test

marinade scent test

The three choices were 1. salt and pepper 2. vinegar and Old bay Spice 3. hot chili pepper flakes and salt. Each marinade also included about 1/2 cup of olive oil. The oil helps to distribute oven heat evenly and speeds up the baking.

There was an opportunity for a visual graph of initial student flavor choices. Each flavor potato had its own tray.

which choice was most popular?

which choice was most popular?

We baked our potaotes in a 350 degree convection oven for about 30 minutes.

After baking and cooling, the potatoes were brought down to the fifth grade class for snack time. Each student was asked to try all three flavors of baked potato. They also recorded the texture and appearance of each type. I could hear many students exclaiming over how much these baked “fries” tasted like the real thing! (Don’t tell them that these ‘fries’ are a helthier choice:-)

Their fifth grade teacher, Ms. Cynda, is teaching them about the  correct use of fork and knife when dining, so this lesson offered many components!

correct use of cutlery

correct use of cutlery

Having tried all three choices, students were asked to write about whether they would still choose the marinade they had chosen originally. How many do you think changed their minds?  One student recorded their votes on the board. Stay with us for the class response………coming soon!!


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DECEMBER: ALSO TIME TO ENJOY MAPLE SYRUP ON PANCAKES

Yesterday, the fourth grade classes participated in making and eating pancakes.

stirring batter

stirring batter

cracking eggs into batter

cracking eggs into batter

flipping pancakes

flipping pancakes

This was not so special in and of itself. The special part was that THEY had made the maple syrup last spring as third graders.
In Vermont, when the snow begins to melt and the nights are still freezing but the days are warm, students grow restless to be outdoors. What better way to welcome spring than to discover a few sugar maples on the playground whose circumference was big enough to accommodate some sap buckets? Students drilled holes for the taps, hung the buckets and checked each morning to see whether those buckets were filling with sap. Cold nights and warm days encourage the best sap runs. These lucky third graders had a cook stove in their classroom. While they did their math and reading lessons, the sap boiled merrily on the stove, sending the sweet smell of syrup throughout the school. They hypothesized about the cause and effect of evaporation and sweeter syrup. Did you know that it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup? YIKES, no wonder real maple syrup is so expensive!

sap buckets

sap buckets

first sap

first sap

gathering sap

gathering sap

The thermometer was the final determiner of our finished syrup. These industrious children boiled quite a bit of sap down to syrup. We sent some extra sap home with our principal, Mr. Tullar, who has a sugaring operation of his own at home. He brought us back a couple of more quarts of beautiful maple syrup.
Children also learned how to make maple sugar candy, a tradition that’s been handed down from our Native American forebears here in Vermont. We had a more recent teacher: Doug Harlow from Harlow’s Sugar House.

making maple candy

making maple candy

visiting  Harlow's Sugar House

visiting Harlow’s Sugar House

Hooray for a look back on a full year of cooking and learning!