Sadie Richards, a FoodCorps Service Member, started with the Boston Public Schools’ Department of Food and Nutrition Services in late August 2011. FoodCorps, a division of AmeriCorps, aims to reverse the trend of childhood obesity through engaging students in agriculture, educating students about food and nutrition, and facilitating student access to fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers. Since August, Sadie has been working with the Farm to School Team at BPS and coordinating the Dearborn Middle School Garden, which was generously donated (and constructed!) by a team from Fidelity Investments.
Sadie teaches a gardening activity block twice a week – Monday and Friday afternoons – during which she and her students do everything from garden maintenance and planting to taste-testing, food preservation, and composting. Thanks to the clever construction of protective plastic “hoophouses” (and our unusually mild winter weather), the Dearborn Garden is still green! Growing under the white covers is a diverse mix of crops including radishes, kale, collard greens, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, swiss chard, and pak choi.
When they are not tending to the raised beds, Sadie leads her students in a variety of food and gardening lessons. For example, Andy Brooks, President and Founder of Bootstrap Compost, recently spoke to the group about his business, community benefits of composting, as well as the composting process in general. Sadie led the group in an interactive activity which explored the 5 kingdoms in compost and the life cycle. Later that week, students participated in a lunchtime collection of apple cores and orange peels for the school compost bin.
In another recent workshop, Sadie’s students participated in a “pickle cook-off,” in which students tested two different recipes for pickled radishes. The exercise not only flexed their kitchen skills, but also required some basic multiplication and knowledge of fractions.
What’s next for the Dearborn Garden? Sadie has plans for workshops in environmental and food justice, irrigation systems, and food and the media, as well as field trips to the Dudley Farmer’s Market, Boston Gardener, and Haley House. Best of all, warmer spring weather will mean more time with hands in the dirt!