Green Thumb Initiative
- Amy Petersilie, Alternative Learning Center - Rochester
- Access to Healthy Foods, Community Involvement, Student Leadership, Success with Funds, Teamwork
The Rochester Alternative Learning Center (RALC) has long had a school garden but has recently implemented the Green Thumb Initiative as a class that offers a hands-on learning environment. The school garden is a powerful tool for building life skills. The garden is a successful example of what project-based learning can accomplish, and it’s a great example of teachers collaborating to do cross-content work. RALC students are learning a range of food preservation methods, which can stretch a family’s food dollars and make it easier to eat more vegetables and fruits year round. Quite a few of our students live in poverty, and what always concerns us is how expensive it can be to eat well. Our students learn it doesn’t have to be that way. Using produce grown in the school garden, the students have learned how to safely preserve produce using the water-bath method of canning; dry fruits and vegetables with a food dehydrator and other methods; freeze fruits and vegetables properly; and use fresh produce in simple recipes that have longer shelf life or can be frozen. Throughout the year, the fresh garden bounty is also used to cook and feed meals to other students in the school several times. We use as many ingredients from the garden as we can and supplement with store-bought ingredients. Besides gaining cooking skills, the kids learn the powerful community effects of sharing a meal.