Before the holidays, the kids at the two Northern Michigan schools where I serve were inevitably bouncing off the walls. In the last week before break, I knew I needed to plan something that involved doing, not listening. Otherwise, I would be setting myself up for chaos.
Discussing ideas with teachers, we narrowed it down to open ended, creative projects— projects that students could work on at their desks and channel some of their excitement into without getting too rowdy. Many teachers have these types of projects in their back pocket already. Together, we worked on giving them a little FoodCorps flair.
One teacher mentioned that a drawing project was something the kids enjoyed very much. We decided upon making holiday thank you cards for the kitchen staff. The kids could just draw or they could draw notes to one of the most under-appreciated individuals at their school: the cafeteria staff. Another teacher said that the kids hadn’t had a chance to make festive crafts yet, though they cut out and decorated paper trees in previous years. Although they could just cut a tree shape out of paper, I suggested that they build edible Christmas trees made of green apple slices and pomegranate seeds (an idea I got from Cassandra, a fellow FoodCorps Michigan service member).
Both activities were a major hit! The kids surprised me with their creativity and thoughtfulness. The cafeteria staff smiled while reading notes such as “you don’t feel like a lunch lady, you feel like a BFF.” The kids who built edible Christmas trees couldn’t wait to tell their parents that they tried pomegranate seeds. The activities demonstrate that teachers need not dedicate time specifically to promoting healthy eating habits or changing the way kids think about food. They can accomplish these things easily by giving creative projects a food related spin.
I will admit that there are aspects of farm to school programs that require a lot of time and effort. These activities, however, do not. They are easy, require no extra time, and can serve as an excellent foundation upon which to build a farm to school program.
Although they may seem trivial, little messages add up to form a child’s ideas about the world around them. Practice creativity with purpose with a child in your life. You might find it makes a bigger impact than you expect.