by Lisa A. Beach
When Dawn Chehab, a third-grade teacher at Orlando’s Millenia Gardens Elementary School, wanted fresh ideas for the school’s established gardens, she turned to Edible Education Experience for guidance.
Dawn wanted to infuse different standards for different grade levels to make the schools’ gardening and cooking lessons accessible (and applicable) for all the school’s teachers. Knowing that Edible Education Experience already has a curriculum infused with gardening and cooking via our partnership with Orlando Junior Academy, Dawn wanted to tap into our successful approach.
“We’re a Title I school, where 100% of our kids get free breakfast and lunch. We needed something to grab students’ attention and keep them coming to school,” explains Dawn. “When we went to the Teacher Academy training, they gave us ideas, provided a framework, and showed us techniques that make kids want to come to school.”
Seed-to-Table Teacher Academy
Now in its ninth year, our Seed-to-Table Teacher Academy provides a two-day, hands-on workshop every summer at the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden. In this beautiful space, we walk educators, school administrators, support staff, and interested parents through the step-by-step process of launching an edible education program. We aim to inspire integration of cooking and gardening into core curriculum while teaching principles of health and nutrition. With our engaging approach, we make school gardening and cooking accessible, scalable, and relevant to every student’s experience by tying it to the curriculum they’re already learning.
Hands-On Edible Education
Dawn recalls one lesson from the Teacher Academy that involved spices from around the world. “We studied geography by mapping out the spice trade route. We learned the science behind how spices were made. And we made rice pudding using a variety of spices used in the spice trade, bringing in the social studies and math elements,” says Dawn. “The Teacher Academy tied in all the subjects, but it’s such a unique approach.” The students researched the topic before they got into the kitchen, then they put it all into action.
Dawn and her fellow teachers use what they’ve learned from the Teacher Academy in both their classrooms and their Eco Club. In this after-school club, a group of 50 students (grades 3-5) focus on hands-on projects, education, and awareness to boost environmental responsibility in their school and their community. Plus, they’re learning healthy lifestyle habits that include growing, cooking, and eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
“The thing I most took away from the Teacher Academy was start thinking out of the box,” notes Dawn. “It can always be tied back to the garden, and usually to cooking, too. There are so many different ways you can teach a standard.”
The Home-School Connection
With the increased student engagement, Dawn points out that the students can see there’s always an outcome. It’s not just something they learn on paper, but it’s the fresh herbs they harvest from the garden and the made-from-scratch spaghetti sauce they cook in the kitchen.
An added benefit? The parents get involved too. “Sometimes the students take something home from the garden and the parent might not know what to do with it,” Dawn explains. “The kids teach the parents how to cook it, so it bridges home and school. We’re partners again with parents.”
The reality is, it takes a team to make school gardening and cooking happen, and you definitely need buy-in from kids. “We drive the program through the kids, not the teachers,” says Dawn, who now has a waiting list for their popular Eco Club. “They just want to learn, so show them a different way using an engaging approach.”
Success Through Teamwork
For the past eight years, we’ve hosted our Seed-to-Table Teacher Academy that inspires integration of cooking and gardening into core curriculum while teaching principles of health and nutrition. Through past experience, we’ve discovered that the best chance for successful and sustainable programs happens through a team approach to creating school gardening and cooking experiences. Ideally, the team would consist of a mix of leaders, including a school principal, a champion teacher, a gardener, a chef, a parent, community volunteer, and/or a food service director.
Once again, we’re offering the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of teachers by seeking sponsors for our 9th annual Seed-to-Table Teacher Academy, July 23-24, 2019. We cannot influence teachers to attend without the support of our friends, like you. We offer several options, as follows:
$375 - Teacher Sponsor
$500 - Lunch Sponsor
$2,000 - Team Sponsor
$7,500 - Presenting Sponsor (Includes flyer header & logo, recognition at the event and social platforms, satisfaction of providing this experience for 20 teachers and their happy, healthy, engaged students!)
Please consider making a difference in your local schools—and by extension, your community—by stepping up to be a Teacher Academy sponsor this year.
Author’s Bio: Lisa Beach is an Orlando freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times, Eating Well, USA Today Go Escape, and dozens more. She volunteers with Edible Education Experience to help with the nonprofit’s content marketing efforts.