Twenty-four Loudoun County teachers took part in a first-of-its-kind school garden training last month at Willowsford Farm.
Loudoun County Public Schools School Nutrition Services partnered with DC Greens to provide the training, which was funded by the USDA Farm to School Planning Grant that was awarded to school nutrition services earlier this year.
“Partnering with our teachers is a natural progression of the work SNS does every day to help students learn the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables,” explained LCPS School Nutrition Supervisor Becky Domokos-Bays. “We provide a practical extension of what students learn in school gardens and classrooms.”
DC Greens’ Co-Founder and Education Director Sarah Holway and Farm to School Director Lea Howe started the training with an overview of successful Farm to School and school garden programs in Washington DC.
Lola Bloom from DC Bilingual Charter School provided an interactive cooking workshop modeling tips and tricks for cooking with students both in the classroom and the garden. Ibti Vincent and Kealy Rudersdorf from Foodprints, FRESHFARMS’s education program in partnership with DC schools, led an outdoor, interactive workshop showing the teachers how to integrate school gardens into the curriculum to meet state standards of learning requirements, including garden lessons for every grade level and strategies for using the garden as an outdoor classroom.
“It is rare as teachers that we are given the opportunity to be with such a wide range of professionals, such as chefs, farmers, non-profit groups who provide unique garden-based instruction or cooking,” Frederick Douglass Elementary School teacher Mary Cunningham said. “You learn from each of these individuals and their experiences and are given hands-on experiences that can be taken back to your school to further develop your garden to table program. Most importantly, you feel supported, inspired, and driven to do more for this type of instruction.”
Domokos-Bays and her staff encourage schools to use the produce from their garden in their school cafeterias. This gives the added benefit of embedding nutrition education throughout the school day.
CPS School Nutrition Service staff members support all LCPS schools that have school gardens and can provide resources and support for those schools that would like to start a school garden. Contact Stefanie.Dove@lcps.org for more information.