By Ibti Vincent, FoodPrints Lead Teacher

Over the past year, I've had the pleasure of working with Karin Harrison, who in addition to being a fabulous special education teacher runs an after school club that attracts some of the most thoughtful and dynamic students at The School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens. Together, elementary and middle schoolers in the self-named Student Sustainability Corps have written (and won!) grants, presented at local conferences, built a retaining wall with community volunteers to ameliorate soil erosion in the front of the school, conducted bin surveys around the school and posted signs to improve recycling efforts throughout the building, and regularly helped me maintain the school's organic vegetable garden. How lucky am I to be a part of this school community and work with these smiling, conscientious young people?

Our connection is an also example of how our FoodPrints school garden extends to support after school and STEM-focused programming outside of FoodPrints classes.
The group also was responsible for constructing and installing a homemade chicken run for the laying hens that were housed at the school for a month this fall. The birds were pretty awesome, inspiring community goodwill and teaching urban kiddos about animal care, while also laying an egg a day and providing learning experiences for our FoodPrints classes.

Their efforts to improve our school community inspire me each day. Each Wednesday when I work with them, I wonder: how will they make me think, and make me smile, today? These students will no doubt go on to become leaders in their communities, to the benefit of us all.
Student Sustainability Corps members mulching and pruning kale in the Francis Stevens school garden
The SWS second graders kicked off Earth Day celebrations in great style with a bike ride to Lincoln park and a trash-free picnic! 

The Lincoln park excursion -- the culminating bike trip as part of the DCPS Cornerstone program that aims to teach all second graders to ride a bike – was a perfect opportunity to collaborate with their  monthly FoodPrints session. We used the preparation for the picnic – and the picnic itself – as a way to teach students about reducing trash, how to prepare and store items with reused containers and less packaging, and what “trash-free” could look like.
During the time I was planning this outing, the cherry blossoms were just blooming in Stanton park and I was astonished at the amount of trash left in the park by people who came to picnic and enjoy the trees.  I want our children to understand that going on a picnic doesn’t have to mean take-out foods with lots of plastic bags and throw-away containers.  With a little time and planning, we can make a trash free picnic with many of the recyclable containers we all have in our cabinets at home.  

Some of the recipes used for our lunch are from the children’s cooking magazine and website ChopChop (Lemony Hummus, a recipe by Cris Comerford, White House Executive Chef), and others were created by turning our yummy salad recipes (including ABC Salad) into sandwich filling to make them easier to eat. Ms. Scofield’s class had fun making the fillings, and Mr. Leavitt’s class was in charge of making the sandwiches and packing it all up for the ride.

To take our trash free picnic one step further, the students helped me recycle an old tablecloth into cloth napkins that we used for the picnic. They decorated the napkins with their ideas of how to help the earth and the importance of living “green.”  These ideas can feel overwhelming at times, but if we all just start with something like beginning to use less plastic bags and re-use our, we can truly make a difference in the world we leave our children and their grandchildren. We will wash the tablecloths and napkins and use them in the SWS FoodPrints kitchen for future lessons.
The accompanying bike trip was also a success! It was a feat for some students that were just barely able to ride or hadn’t ridden at all before the unit started. DCPS loaned SWS some bikes for students who didn’t have them, but most second graders brought their bikes every Thursday for a few months and received instruction from Mr. Chapman, the SWS physical education teacher, on riding technique and safety.

Many parents came along to ride and help. John Cochran, dad to Liam, had a great time: “It was a fun trip, with lots of grownups on hand to help the kids and a delicious lunch prepared by the kids in FoodPrints.”

Winter Vegetables


Early childhood science standards include a focus on studying seasons and weather patterns through observations, and by collecting data to search for patterns. In FoodPrints, students study fruits and vegetables available in the garden and from local farms through the seasons. Together, these experiences help our youngest learners synthesize these sets of knowledge to more deeply understand the impact of seasonal changes on the natural world around them.
Observing different types of winter produce.
At Peabody, the first FoodPrints session following the winter holiday was a focus on winter vegetables. After visiting their school garden for observations, students looked at the Growing Healthy Schools  - Choose What’s in Season chart provided to us by OSSE’s Healthy Schools Act Initiatives.  It provides a visible illustration of the locally grown, seasonal fruit and vegetables available in the Washington area and has been used in the Peabody FoodPrints classroom throughout the year to support students’ learning.  
Questions we considered:
What do you notice about the different seasons? 
How did the school garden change during each of these seasons?
What do you notice about vegetables available in winter versus summer? 
Why aren’t they all available in every season? Why do different plants grow in different seasons? How can you explain the differences? 

Children noticed that the leafy greens that were left in their school garden, unprotected from the cold temperatures, were wilted and frozen. They also noticed that the green leafy vegetables were in the spring section of the chart but not in the winter section.  

What happens to greens in the winter?

As small groups of children compared the collection of winter vegetables in the FoodPrints classroom and weighed them on the kitchen scale, the conversation focused on not only the weight of each vegetable, but the differences in the coverings of the root vegetables and the thick skinned winter squash. 

Weighing and measuring our winter bounty.
Apples + Beets + Carrots = ABC Salad
Mashing potatoes and squash.
As the children prepared ABC Salad and Butternut Squash-Potato Mash,  they noticed the beautiful colors that winter vegetables have and learned about the health benefits of eating red and orange vegetables. We also read a wonderful book called This Year's Garden that follows the evolution of a garden throughout the course of the seasons.