MAHOPAC, N.Y. - If you grow it, they’ll say, “yum.”
That is the basic philosophy behind Austin Road fifth-grade teacher Beth Dore and year-round garden she’s maintained with her elementary school students.
Want to get a kid to try kale? Have them grow it, harvest it, bake it into chips and salt it. Problem solved.
Dore’s garden has produced a wide variety of produce over the last few years. But the lessons don’t end in the garden. They continue into the kitchen, where the kids learn to cook with what they’ve grown.
Now, Dore is teaching other teachers in the district (Teachers Teaching Teachers) how to garden and cook what they’ve grown and to share those lessons with their students. Think it of it as paying it forward with veggies.
Dore and her adult students met last Thursday night at the middle school (there are five three-hour sessions in the course) to learn about the aforementioned kale chips—among other things.
“In growing the garden, I began to realize there was never a class for teachers,” Dore said. “It’s been kids working with kids, which is beautiful, but the teachers are saying, ‘We don’t know what to do in the garden.’”
Dore said the cooking/gardening class has been well received by her colleagues.
“They are completely inspired. They see the kids working in the garden and they get excited and say, ‘When can we go in the garden?’” Dore said. “They feel more comfortable because they didn’t know what to plant, where to plant and when to plant.”
Dore’s class is open to all teachers in the district. The current group features teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We have three teachers from the middle school and the rest are from all three elementary schools,” she said. “We have 22 altogether.”
The classes are indeed inspiring. Lakeview has broken ground for a garden of its own and Fulmar Road is looking to resurrect an old garden that fell by the wayside.
Dore said that just like her young students, the teacher students enjoy getting into the garden and getting their hands dirty.
“We worked the soil and I taught them about sustainability and compost,” she said. “They have learned so much.”
Dore called last Thursday’s class a “reward day” because the class was going to get to cook the kale and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“It’s farm to table,” she said. “It’s the idea of using the garden for things like a ‘plants-part salad.’ We use the roots, stems, leaves, flowers . . . nothing goes to waste.”
Dore gets her seeds, bulbs, and seedlings from farmer John Pahucki and the Do Re Mi Farm in Orange County. She gives him a list each February and he donates to the cause.
“This was my first time teaching a Teachers Teaching Teachers class, so, of course, I was very nervous about it,” Dore said. “But the enthusiasm is amazing, and every teacher is engaged and excited about bringing this to their students.”
Ginny Gretling is the middle school’s family and consumer science teacher and lets Dore use the middle-school kitchen classroom for her course. She is also one of Dore’s students.
“It’s been very exciting because [Dore] has given us permission to just be students and say, ‘I don’t know the answer to that question,’” Gretling said. “For us to take this science back to our classrooms and have knowledgeable conservations with our students about soil, gardening, germinating seeds is great. I am really hoping to have a middle-school garden in the next couple of years.”
That’s music to Dore’s ears—exactly what she hopes will happen.
“This is what I hoped for—to have a garden at their own schools,” Dore said. “I really believe every school should have its own garden. So, it’s been wonderful to see how the light bulbs are going off in [the teachers’] heads and how they can take [these lessons] and apply them.
“Working in the garden, the kids are so much more inclined to taste things,” Gretling added. “If they grow it, they want to eat it.”