School Gardens

Educational Construction Site Tours

Back-to-School typically means new uniforms, binders and lunch boxes and this year, for Orlando Junior Academy students, it also meant educational construction site tours of the soon coming Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden.

Jose Venegas, of Midtown Architecture Studio, was on hand to lead small groups of students and parents through the 3,500 sq. ft. kitchen house, as part of OJA’s Back-to-School Bash on August 7.  Venegas was quoted as saying, “Making a building like this is a privilege. I always enjoy telling others of the beautiful vision it will soon share with our community.”

Educational highlights included: Identifying different construction shapes found in the roof and wall framing, figuring square footage and learning the science behind environmental-friendly elements such as metal roofing and water catchment, resulting in LEED certification.  

Parents offered many positive responses including, "This resource will truly differentiate OJA from other schools" and "I can feel the excitement--there's so much positive energy around what's going to happen here!" 

Students were especially excited about getting to wear hard hats and signing their name on one of the walls to memorialize their part in this special project. Many of the kids also took the opportunity to write a note of thanks to Massey Services for the non-toxic termite treatment that was gifted to the project. Special recognition also goes to HuntonBrady, architect of record, and E2Homes for prepping the site for the day's visitors. 

The garden was also enjoyed as students and parents sipped cool citrus-and-mint-flavored water, offered by gracious volunteers, while observing the butterflies flitting from flower to flower.

Edible Education Experience looks forward to project completion in November and sharing this new community kitchen classroom with kids where cooking and gardening are integrated into school curriculum and beyond . . . 


From Seed to Table to Classroom

Bright and early on June 22 & 23, twenty teachers and community leaders, representing 11 area schools, gathered to enjoy two extraordinary days of cooking with chefs and hands-on gardening. This 5th annual Edible Schoolyard Academy was presented by Edible Education Experience and hosted at Orlando Junior Academy.

Discussions and activities provided attendees with practical help for building or improving their own school gardens and gave inspiration towards integrating cooking and gardening into school curriculum. Cooking lessons included: Written food memories, history of pasta making, ease of processing nut butters, basic knife skills and table etiquette. Gardening lessons explored: Science of composting, math relevance when building a trellis, literacy principals found in flower arranging and introduction to readily available resources that include standards-based lesson plans. Teachers were also toured through the future Emeril Lagasse Kitchen House & Culinary Garden and were invited to return with their students as a field trip destination.

Academy instruction was led by Sarah Cahill, Certified Raw Food Chef, Kevin Fonzo, Chef/Owner of K Restaurant and Brad Jones, Garden Coordinator. Attendees also received expert advise from guest presenters:

Kristi Hatakka,
  Dept. of Ag and School
  Garden Coordinator for the
  State of Florida
Lora Gilbert,
  OCPS Food Director
Sabrina Miler, 
  OJA Math Specialist
Carianna Farfan, 
  OJA Literacy Specialist

As community partners, Erica Asti of Florida Hospital introduced how schools can invite Mission:Fit and CREATION U to their campus for a fun and interactive health message and Megan Silberman of Jamba Juice brought fresh carrots and apples for on-site juicing as a mid-afternoon snack. Silberman also distributed information as to how schools can partner with Jamba Juice for healthy school fundraisers.

Time for reflection was given at the end of the 2-day session and rave reviews were received:

Loved the recipes and hands-on lessons. Very inspired to “cook” hopefully weekly in class.” Joyce Nichols, Lake Silver Elementary

“I totally enjoyed every minute I spent in the garden. This Professional Development exceeded my expectations. Thank you! The lessons can be easily incorporated into our Science, Math, and Social Studies standards for all grade levels”  Sonia Robinson, Whispering Oaks Elementary

“I am most eager to incorporate ideas like watermelon math in my lesson plans to teach circumference, perimeter and area and to use the measuring of ingredients to teach fractions.”  Michelle O’Reilly, Orlando Junior Academy

Overall, this year's Academy received a satisfaction rate of over 90% and many attendees offered the fact that they would recommend the program to someone they know.    

A big “Thank You” to providers of teacher scholarships and event sponsors: Lake Adair Garden Club, College Park Rotary, Slow Foods Orlando, Winter Park Gardening Club, Edible Orlando Magazine and Whole Foods Market. OCPS and West Learning Community also funded several teachers.

Schools represented were: Dillard Street Elementary
First Congregational Church   PreSchool/Kindergarten
Lake Silver Elementary
Lakeview Middle School
Memorial Middle School
Monarch Learning Academy
Orlando Junior Academy
Tildenville Elementary
Windermere Elementary
Whispering Oak Elementary
and our first international attendance from the Virgin Islands Department of Education. Also in attendance was a representative from Young Environmental Society and an occupational therapist, for the sake of her young clients.

Next year's Academy is already in planning with June 2017 dates to be determined. If you know a school administrator, teacher or parent who is involved with a school garden, tell them about this 2-day workshop. If you are a business and wish to be an event sponsor, please contact

Gardening at Memorial Middle

Prior to summer, Brad Jones was invited to a gardening experience with kids at Memorial Middle School.  There he met Carvel Munroe, Center Director of US Dream Academy. Munroe was leading his group of after school students through the experience of planting a garden and Jones was on-hand with the art and science expertise of how to make a school garden a success.

To learn more about US Dream Academy visit:

For more Edible Education Experience information go to: and check-out Facebook - EdibleEducationExperience or Instagram EdibleEdExp. Send inquiries to