Ryoko Yamamoto is the Garden Coordinator at Capital City PCS in Washington, DC. In her role, she connects students to their local food system with environmental and garden education.
This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:
In our garden, we grow abundance of vegetables and herbs. Herbs are widely used for cooking and craft, come in many varieties, and provide students with constant discovery of something new.
Every week in July I teach lessons with new garden-based recipes for our elementary students. To begin the lesson, I asked my 4th graders a common question: “What’s your favorite vegetable or fruit?” Students called out, “Strawberries!” “Orange tomatoes!” “Cucumbers!” Then one student said, “I like the one with red flower that you can drink the nectar from”. Among all garden foods he tried past years, he chose Bee Balm, a delicate red flower and an incredibly important pollinator, attracting bees and butterflies which then pollinate the other herbs and flowers in the garden. His answer really struck me because in years past, I spent time teaching this same group of students about how honeybees collect nectar from flowers and had students mimic their behavior. They took turns sampling small amounts of the sweet and subtle nectar from the Bee Balm and this boy had remembered the lesson.
Moments like watching students use all their senses to taste and experience unfamiliar but exciting new flavors is deeply inspiring to me. When we are introduced new flavors from real foods at a young age, we create positive associations with trying new things that lasts a lifetime. Seasonality and trying these foods amongst friends in a safe and celebrated space such as a schools garden is also important. Tasting foods is an all encompassing experience and herbs (and flowers!) are a great way to expose students to new flavors.