Running garden programming in the winter takes some creativity. So does running gardening at schools which don’t yet have gardens. (Both are totally doable – there’s lots to learn about food and plants without the garden actually being there/accessible, but one does definitely have to think a bit outside the garden box.)
One teacher asked if I could do some baking with her class this winter. They had done some baking with the whole class earlier, but she thought that if I could work with them in smaller groups it would be a bit more manageable and the kids could get more hands-on. Some folks have wondered just how this links with my garden programming, but to me the links are clear. For me, an important element of food garden programming is preparing the harvest, and while we don’t yet have food from the garden, we can already start learning some cooking skills. We’re also learning about local food; we’re choosing one local and seasonal primary ingredient per week and finding something to bake with it. (Of course there aren’t really local ingredients growing right now, but we’re using Ontario fruits and veggies which store well and are available throughout the winter.) Learning about local foods can lead into lessons about what we could grow in our school garden this coming season. Cooking and baking can also be linked to a variety of curriculum requirements, like measuring, comparing liquids and solids, noticing changes of state when melting and/or baking… Lots of fun learning going on!
So far I’ve worked with two small groups of students and we’ve made carrot muffins and maple apple crisp. This week’s plan is a little Valentine’s Day themed treat – beet and chocolate muffins. Not only are our primary ingredients local (carrots, apples, beets, etc.), but we’re trying to use as many local ingredients as possible. We’ve used Ontario sunflower oil and maple syrup, and many other ingredients which could at least theoretically be from Ontario, like flax, wheat and spelt. (There’s an egg allergy in the class, so we’ve been using ground flax and water as an egg substitute. I’m finding that looking up vegan recipes is a good way to find recipes which have been tested with the flax “eggs”. We haven’t stuck to all of the vegan’ness of these recipes – we’ve still used butter and cow’s milk, which are more local than many of the alternatives.)
During and after our baking sessions, the kids also fill in worksheets, focusing both on local ingredients and on the states of matter of the different ingredients. I’ve been typing the ingredient lists as charts, where the students check off whether each ingredient is a solid or a liquid. The teacher also put together a worksheet which asks the students to draw and describe the local fruit or vegetable we used for the recipe. There’s also a chart for them to list the local and imported ingredients from the whole recipe. Next, they describe changes which occurred either before and after mixing, or before and after baking. And last, they draw or write about their favourite part of the activity. I try to have these local vs imported discussions while we’re baking, but we often get distracted by the baking action going on, so it’s nice to have the worksheet which helps us refer back to our ingredients once things are in the oven.
It’s been fun baking with the small groups of grade 2/3s, and hearing how much they enjoyed the results (which we always share with the whole class). So far we’ve used fairly “normal” baking ingredients – carrots and apples – so I’m curious to see what they think of the beet muffins. Also looking for ideas for the next recipe or two, using different produce than what we’ve already used. Parsnips? Squash/pumpkin? Any other ideas/recipes?
Well, back to baking some beet chocolate muffins. (I’ve obviously gotta try out this recipe beforehand. It’s a tough life. ;-) )
Happy growing (and baking and farmers’ marketing and seed ordering…)!