When the last bell rang on Friday releasing students for the weekend in south San Diego, kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders sprinted out from their classrooms and into the school garden. Early arrivers excitedly argued over who got to water the plants with the giant garden hose first. More students skipped in with big grins, eager to see what had grown since they were last there.
We joined the Sherman Elementary Garden Club last week to teach students about eating the rainbow of fruits and vegetables. This Food Smarts activity usually requires some imagination as we ask participants to think of fruits and vegetables that fall into each color category, but at Sherman Elementary, we adapted the lesson and sent the kids on a scavenger hunt. Their goal was to find (and taste!) as many colors of the rainbow as they could right there in the garden. The group of about 30 students was split up into three groups, which rotated every 20 minutes for one hour. The other groups made butterfly crafts and helped Pablo prune the garden. I was impressed that every student remained fully engaged for the entire hour.
One student, a self-described "Veggie Whisperer", was willing to put just about anything in his mouth. He LOVED vegetables and wanted everyone to know it! Others were enthusiastic about trying things like basil leaves right off the plant, but spit it out when the bitter flavor hit their tongue. This didn't deter them from trying something else though! When a couple beets were pulled up from the ground, the kids beamed with pride and asked to have their picture taken with it.
When we gathered back together to share what was found on the scavenger hunt, some students held out handfuls of vegetables while others held up colorful drawings of what they observed, or imagined could grow, in the garden. Many of the students knew that fruits and vegetables gave us vitamins to keep us healthy, and were excited to learn that each color gave us specific types of vitamins and minerals.
At the end of the hour, each student walked out with some fresh veggies, an EatFresh.org recipe card for Apple Celery Slaw to share with their family, and an expanded understanding of how the food they're growing keeps them healthy and strong.