Fresh Take Blog

Science and Food Education in FoodPrints Gardens

By Allie Davis  |  May 5, 2021

Growing Outdoor Education as Students Return to School

We believe that engaging students outdoors, digging in the soil and connecting with nature, is so important after a year of extended screen time and social isolation.

This past winter and spring, Tyler Elementary has been on the forefront of providing outdoor education in partnership with FoodPrints. Tyler’s new outdoor classroom adjacent to the newly renovated playground provided a perfect space for students to gather at safe distances for discussion, writing and drawing before and after they explored and cared for the garden during each class. Students braved the winter months and now Tyler’s garden has officially transitioned from winter to spring!

During this time, the FoodPrints team has also been working with city partners in the DC Coalition for Equitable Outdoor Education to advocate for and demonstrate the importance and feasibility of outdoor learning. We also Green Schoolyards America’s policy guide valuable as we support expanding outdoor education across DC.

During the isolating nature of this year, FoodPrints outdoor learning has been a bright spot for Tyler.

Tyler Principal, Ms. Jasmine Brann, has been a leader in piloting and expanding outdoor learning during this difficult year when schools have been mostly closed and students have been learning from home. Principal Brann says, “During the isolating nature of this year, FoodPrints outdoor learning has been a bright spot in our work to maintain our vibrant and close-knit community. FoodPrints is always such a joyful experience for students, and it means even more this year to have time engaging and exploring in-person in our garden and outdoor classroom.” After a successful pilot last fall, FoodPrints expanded outdoor classes to weekly garden lessons for in-school classes at Tyler.

In late March, young students eagerly joined in the effort to plan a spring garden as they learned about eating the rainbow and designed their own rainbow dream gardens. While brainstorming, the class discussed food variety and seasonality with their FoodPrints teacher, Ms. Allie. They also planted beets, radishes, carrots, and lettuce seedlings, with one student pausing because, as he said, “planting is so fun I need to take a dance break!”

After returning from Spring Break, students found that the once bare garden beds had started to sprout with tiny green plants! The tops of the radishes, beets, and carrots they planted peeked out from under the soil. Students soon realized this was not the only change in the garden though! “Whoa! What is that?” one student asked, turning to the flowering yellow buds on the same kale plants they harvested from a few weeks before. Ms. Allie explained to the students about pollination and how the flowers meant it was time to pull the kale up and plant something new. As a group, students pulled up the kale plants to explore each part closely.

As part of the FoodPrints lesson Meet the Plant Parts, which is aligned with DC Early Learning Standards, the class discussed that the roots absorb nutrients and water, the stem supports the rest of the above ground plant, the leaves gather energy from the sun to make food for the plant, the flowers make seeds, and the seed can grow into new plants. Students then chose a plant part to observe more closely and draw. During their exploration, students listened to “Roots, Stems, Leaves” by the Banana Slug String Band to help them remember all the parts.

We continue to expand FoodPrints outdoor education because we feel strongly that these joyful in-person opportunities are critical supports for both academic learning and social-emotional growth. This May, our FoodPrints teachers are providing outdoor science classes at 10 of our partner schools. As we plan for programming in the 2021-22 school year with this approach front and center, we also continue our partnerships to strengthen support for and expand opportunities for students across the city.

FoodPrints at Tyler this year was partially supported by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation.

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