Full Circle

Potato taste test at Carver Elementary
Potato taste test at Carver Elementary

Sometimes, in many aspects of my life, it feels like things are done kind of randomly, spontaneously, and without connection. They are all great things, but are missing the continuity and compulsory nature of things that make sense: that build off of each other, that work from a starting point and get to an ending point, that produce tangible learning and results.

My time in FoodCorps has taught me that while spontaneous things may be great, the things that connect are the things that stick.

Last week, we did a potato tasting at Carver Elementary during lunchtime. Kids like potatoes, right? It’s not hard to get a kid convinced to eat a potato. So, why did we choose this as our big cafeteria taste test vegetable? Well, these potatoes were touched by many hands- the hands of the kids that would be eating them. Last May, the taters were planted by students during our school-wide planting day. Kids all summer long were in the garden observing, watering, weeding, tasting, and watching things grow, including our beloved potatoes. We harvested some mid-summer because we just couldn’t wait, but saved some back so everyone could try once school started again. Ms. Iaria’s class came out on an almost-rainy day and harvested and washed the potatoes. Then the potatoes traveled up to Mr. Cross’ classroom, where gloved students chopped and prepared the potatoes. The potatoes made their way to the school kitchen, where the food service workers helped me to roast the potatoes with fresh herbs and olive oil. Mr. Brannon’s class helped serve them to students and collect votes on the potatoes that everyone tried (and overwhelmingly loved, I might add).

There are other moments in my service that feel like the dots have been connected.

  • Including teachers and community members in on curriculum planning and ideas for garden-integrated lessons, with the eventual plan of making unit-connected lessons available to teachers district-wide.
  • Harvesting apples with classes, weighing them, and using weights to practice adding fractions… then cutting them up for a school cafeteria taste test and putting the leftovers out front of the school with a smiling FoodCorps service member passing them out to families during parent pick-up time.
  • Harvesting sunflowers with 4th graders who used the seeds in packets to learn about seed saving, multiplication and making money by selling the packets for a classroom fundraiser.

Anyway, the stories could continue. Stories that in my mind look like a comic strip character with the “Aha” exclamation point above her head, as in, “This was meaningful.” Stories that help me to believe that the service I am doing really does have staying power. It’s not my garden, or my healthy snacks, or my lessons. We are all in this together! The more hands that take part, the more attitudes that are shifted, the more perspectives and ideas shared, the more this thing becomes a reality. The more healthy kids and schools and communities and futures we’ll have.

I can see it all coming together… full circle.