Learning Garden Goes from Seed to Salad 

Students reap benefits of successful harvest

June 17, 2013

Through the “Eat What You Grow” Harvest Day process, a group of students from Miles Davis Elementary recently turned what they’d grown and harvested in their school’s learning garden into a unique lunchtime event for the entire student body.


After carefully sanitizing their tools, the students harvested 13.4 pounds of a lettuce mix that they had planted earlier in the spring, then delivered the fresh produce to their cafeteria for use in the salad bar.


“This was one of the first harvests of the school year for our learning gardens,” said Drew Thomas, School Garden Coordinator for CPS. “The hope is that these events help students better understand where food comes from and get them excited about eating fresh, healthy produce.”


As a STEM school, Miles Davis has used its learning garden as an extension of the science classroom, educating students on the life cycle of plants by allowing them to visually observe the process.


“The garden provides excellent hands-on experience in botany and other plant sciences,” said Michael McKinney, Engineering Coordinator for Miles Davis. “Students from every classroom have planted seeds in the garden and carefully tracked their progress.”


The “Eat What You Grow” event provided students with real harvest experience while also exposing them to agricultural engineering and teaching them important facts about food safety.


“They learned the importance of sanitizing tools and containers, washing their hands, and carefully documenting what they harvested,” said McKinney. “It was a real eye-opener on how food moves from a farm to their plates.”


During lunch, students from Miles Davis were excited to see the purple lettuce leaves they had nurtured appear on the salad bar.


“They took pride of ownership in the harvest,” said McKinney, “and they thought it was cool to see something they’d grown themselves turn up on their plates.”


With the help of students in both summer school classes and a Learning Garden Camp, the harvests at Miles Davis will continue throughout the summer. The school plans to take the project as far into the fall as possible, harvesting not only lettuce, but tomatoes, okra, spinach, and other greens.


“Participating in the harvest changes students’ attitudes toward this kind of food,” said McKinney. “The concept of growing their own food is no longer abstract, and both the process and the taste turn them on to freshness.”