Greeted by eager, smiling faces I sat down at a table to experience an Edible Schoolyard class at Arthur Ashe Charter School. My dear friend and Lead Chef Instructor, Emily Hager began the class with a Do Now–a short questionnaire reviewing yesterday’s lesson on how food affects the brain. After a review of the day’s lesson on super foods (the fun) began. All students chose a responsibility in creating a brain food salad. I was lucky enough to get a taste and it was more delicious than anything I will probably ever cook.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is providing a space for students that is different from most in school,” Emily explains about the perks of her job. “Edible Schoolyard provides health and wellness education for kids who live in food deserts. We teach them how to attain food and how to use it. Through this experiential class we foster students career paths through fundamentals in leadership and cooking.”
Established in Berkeley, CA in the mid-90’s by Alice Waters, Edible Schoolyard bloomed in New Orleans post-Katrina. Currently, the program has been breathing new life into curriculum in the city’s Firstline Schools. It creates a positive, fun learning environment as well as a therapeutic space for children, especially those dealing with trauma.
The program is designed around three major topics – 1) health and wellness, 2) hands-on learning in the classroom and the school garden, and 3) academic integration. These lessons are not only for the students, but for parents and family as well. Throughout the school year parents are invited to participate in classes learning nutritional education and hands-on cooking skills.
While the first and second graders were busy grating, cutting and mixing I asked them their favorite thing about class. Eating, growing good, having fun, working as a team, and building community were just a few of the answers. While observing the class, I watched as Emily and the other chef instructors infectious spirits created a culture of loving and trying new things. “We hope all students who pass through our classroom, take all the lessons they’ve learned here and bring them back into their communities.” I must add Arthur Ashe’s program has a beautiful and impressive garden as well as an extensive composting system.
To learn more about The Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans: http://www.esynola.org