They were so empowered, and so lit up, and so thrilled and happy to see how their work culminated.

School Gardens, Farmer Visits, and Student Involvement in the Owen J. Roberts School District

In her interview, Jo-an Rechtin, Manager of School and Community Engagement, spoke about how the Farm to School program benefits student from all grades and in multiple disciplines in the Owen J. Roberts School District. Rechtin discusses the benefits of working with both teachers and students on various Farm to School projects: from bringing farmers into the schools, to seeing high school students empowered through their Farm Day teaching experiences, to witnessing kindergarten teachers making pumpkin soup with their students, and sourcing local produce in the cafeteria.

While students of all ages enjoy local produce throughout the district, the annual Farm Day is unique in that it brings together students from multiple grades. Following months of planning, high school students spend a day teaching kindergarten students about life on a farm, and the journey food takes from farm to plate. When remembering observing high school students after the morning kindergarten students left the Farm Daystations, Rechtin stated, "They were so empowered, and so lit up, and so thrilled and happy to see how their work culminated."

However, in spite of the many successes of these programs, Rechtin also discusses the reality of managing such a vast program, "Getting them going is not as big of an obstacle as people make it, I think. It's keeping them going that has been the bigger challenge for us." Not dissuaded by these challenges, Rechtin focuses on her strategies for working through them. She discussed the importance of constantly advocating for the program -- keeping it in the fore in as many discussions with parents, teachers, and district administrators as possible. Following this approach has gotten Rechtin not just continuing support for her programs, but also unexpected volunteers, such as two local moms who assisted students from more than fifty classrooms to complete planting projects this past spring.

 

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Click on the green play button above. Jo-an speaks about the biggest successes of the Farm to School Programs in the Owen J. Roberts School District.

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Jo-an explains how the Farm to School program in the Owen J. Roberts School District has kept up it momentum.

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Jo-an speaks about multi-grade student involvement during Farm Day.

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Jo-an reflects on what she's enjoyed about her work with the Farm to School program.

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Volunteers, and flexibility: two keys to Farm to School success!

Click on a Photo to See a Larger View with Caption

Owen J. Roberts School :: An Owen J. Roberts School District student learns to plant a seedling in an outdoor garden. Owen J. Roberts School :: Elementary students prepare one of the outdoor gardens in the Owen J. Roberts School District for planting. Owen J. Roberts School :: During the course of the school year, elementary students learn how to plant seedlings, maintain their garden, and harvest crops. They even learn lessons about sharing by planting seeds from pumpkins they tended and harvested for the benefit of future students. Owen J. Roberts School :: Yvonne Post from Cooking For Real Hands On Food Education, during a cooking demonstration for students. Always growing her program, as one of the schools in her district is becoming a Community Supported Agriculture drop through Lancaster Farm Fresh during the 2011-2012 school year, Rechtin plans on expanding the cooking demonstration program to include select CSA pick up days.
Owen J. Roberts School :: East Vincent Elementary Principal Dr. Cheryl Bell interviews Farmer Josh in a kindergarten classroom before the students make applesauce using apples from his orchard, Frecon Orchards. Farmer Josh, from Frecon Orchards, visited East Vincent Elementary and posed here with the Kimberton Fair Queen and a Wellness Warrior Mom. About this farmer visit, Rechtin says,  He was greeted like a celebrity! He mingled with students during lunch while PTA passed out apple slices from the orchard where he works. No instructional time lost for this type of Farm to School promotion!

 

Pumpkin Soup Recipe


Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 (10 1/2-ounce) cans low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • *3 cups fresh pumpkin, baked and scooped from peel
  • *1 cup chopped peeled McIntosh or other sweet cooking apple
  • 1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
 10px-spacer 2px-spacer 10px-spacer  Instructions:
Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Stir in flour; cook 30 seconds. Add broth, nutmeg, and salt, stirring well. Stir in pumpkin and apple; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until pumpkin is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Place mixture in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Return mixture to pan; add milk. Cook until thoroughly heated.

*Quick recipe
Substitute 1 small can pumpkin for fresh pumpkin. Substitute 1 cup applesauce for apple. Reduce simmer time to 15 minutes and skip processing in a blender.


Recipe courtesy Jo-an Rechtin, Manager of School and Community Engagement, Owen J. Roberts School District.


Jo-an's project notes about pumpkin soup: "The students picked the pumpkins, we halved them, and they scooped out the seeds and saved them into seed packets which they decorated. The pumpkin was baked by our food service staff and returned to the children who then scooped out the flesh. The students planted the seeds in the spring for the upcoming Kindergarten class. They read Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, a story on cooperation."


Promising Practices