Where ‘farm to fork’ lessons are on the teaching menu – The Vacaville Reporter


Heather Merodio, a teacher at the Suisun Valley K-8 school, cut pieces off a broccoli flower, handing the gnarled green segments to her fifth-grade agroscience students, some 20 in all, sitting on the edges of ‘a rectangular wooden grow box inside the campus ‘ garden in rural Fairfield.

“It tastes raw,” pupil Myah Rodriguez told a visitor to the Lambert Road school on Friday.

“It tastes earthy,” added classmate Jade Adams, with fellow classmate Emmalyn Pearson sitting next to her adding, “I think it’s fresh.”

Speaking in the middle of the school’s quarter-acre garden, the brief educational exercise was an example of the custom, practice and belief of the school’s longtime educators in teaching state next-generation science standards and STEM subjects as they plant, nurture, harvest, and eat the food they grow.

Merodio then cut and passed out delicate yellow broccoli flowers and stems for tasting, and student Edwin Candelario gave him a quick and candid review: “It doesn’t taste like anything.”

Sitting next to him, LJ Walters claimed, “I don’t know how it tastes.”

Eating broccoli stalks elicited more specific reactions from the two boys, who said “it’s a little sweet” and “a little watery,” respectively.

By all accounts, the teachers and more than 500 students at the school take nutrition, healthy food choices and conscious cooking to heart. As they learn and enjoy the physical exercise required by farming, they also get some dirt on their arms and legs, and plenty of fresh air.

“It’s project-based learning,” Merodio said before the fifth-graders headed out to the garden, filled with raised beds surrounded by woods, a feature, along with the improved floors, of the ” French intensive method” of gardening championed more than 50 years ago by the late Alan Chadwick at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In a text message to The Reporter, Fairfield-Suisun Unified Superintendent Kris Corey said the school’s garden was more like “a farm”, calling the school’s agro-science program an “outstanding example a K-8 themed school that aligns with the district’s vocational technical education pathways, with students learning lifelong skills “that will shape their future.”

The school’s agri-science program has earned a reputation for innovative learning, attracting other educators to visit campus so they can replicate it at their school.

Last week he brought in Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, who grew up on a farm in Mokelumne Hill and lives in Walnut Grove. He toured the campus, its newly built innovation lab (where cooking classes and more take place and where Merodio teaches), and had the chance to taste the parsley pesto prepared in his honor by the students.

Earlier, Principal Jas Bains Wright gave a visitor a brief tour of the garden, showing several boxes filled with lush cardoon artichokes, Brussels sprouts, garlic, cherry tomatoes, yellow and red onions, kale, asparagus and peppers.

The 26-year-old educator, 11 of whom at Suisun Valley K-8, said she grew up in Yuba City “driving a tractor”, helping her father grow peaches, prunes and walnuts, and that she understood agriculture.

“My job was to develop the farm,” she said of being hired to run the school, pointing, as she walked, to a chicken coop, pomegranate, apricot, persimmon, fig and lemon trees, 2,000 gallon recycled water storage tanks and vines of table grapes, now leafless as winter sets in.

When asked what the students learn, she replied, “I think they appreciate where their food comes from.” She added that students also learn to take care of animals, such as chickens, and learn to “care for and nurture a plant from a seed, watch it grow, harvest it, prepare it and eat it.”

Merodio, she says, “teaches the value of eating organic food.”

Lessons are grade-appropriate, Bains Wright noted, meaning, for example, kindergartners might want to grow carrots and learn all about them, while another class might want to grow carrots. be growing radishes.

She and Merodio agreed that students also learn about loss, which is when an insect or vermin ravages a particular plant, but, for example, a whitefly infestation can also be a lesson in how to cope with natural adversity.

Many students started gardening at home following their school lessons and introduced their parents to organic farming, Bains Wright said. She added that, “as the school of choice”, about 60% of students come from outside the catchment area.

“It’s also good for their mental health and physical well-being,” Merodio said of the school’s gardening activities. “They connect with nature and learn to work collaboratively.”

Outdoor lessons eventually turn into indoor lessons as students reflect and remember their experiences and what they learned, she added.

Bains Wright, Merodio and other teachers believe a coordinated effort between staff and students can lead to higher activity levels, healthier food choices and greater student achievement during these challenging times. of pandemic.

In a brochure on the school’s agri-science program, educators wrote, “Without a doubt, agri-science is one of the core programs at Suisun Valley and will be continued because of its positive impact on students.


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