New Fisher Garden Includes Full Cooking, Gardening Curriculum

New Fisher garden includes full cooking, gardening curriculum
Posted on 01/03/2018

The lentil and kale salad served up inside Fisher Elementary School classrooms wasn’t the typical fare for a majority of elementary students. But it was a typical showcase of food that local nonprofit Common Threads puts on display as part of its curriculum.

Fisher has teamed with Common Threads to not only plan, create and help manage an on-site garden for the school, but also pair that garden with meaningful curriculum used throughout the school.

Fisher principal Courtney Ross saw the school garden concept in Bellingham and with the ample space at the new Fisher building, decided to see if she could pull something similar off in Lynden. She earned the school a Whole Foods Foundation grant, which pays for the kick off of the garden and the Fisher PTA has supported the Common Threads partnership, providing an AmeriCorps volunteer, this year Alyssa Stewart, to work with the school, visiting the school regularly for lessons and activities.

While planning for the implementation of the garden will take off in full force in January, Stewart started visiting Fisher in December, kicking things off with cooking classes.

“It was so exciting,” Ross says about the initial visits. “Kids who are normally disengaged or off task totally engaged. They were involved in the process.”

Stewart brought in all the ingredients needed to teach a recipe and the students got right into the mix, washing their hands, preparing the dish and learning about the ingredients all along the way. Then they had an opportunity to taste their creation.

“Just last week one kid in particular told me he wasn’t going to try it,” Stewart says. “Then he saw his friends like it and so he gave it a try, ate it all and had seconds. He told me he doesn’t normally try these things, but he was super excited. It is really amazing to see those responses.”

Ross says that having Common Threads partner with the school not only helps bring ready-made curriculum surrounding the garden—whether in winter, spring or fall—into the classroom, but it also provides someone to manage the garden, taking that burden off staff.

Plans for the actual garden will come together after Stewart leads the design process. With a location set behind the school’s cafeteria near the playground, it will turn into a high-visiblity space for students. “There are a lot of PTA parents super excited and a lot of teachers super excited,” Stewart says. “We want the Fisher community to decide what they want their garden to look like. Fisher has a great big space and once we figure out what we want, I will draw up designs.”

Stewart will work with Fisher through the end of the school year. She already teams with Birchwood Elementary School in Bellingham at the school’s well-established garden. “I am doing the same thing at Birchwood, teaching the garden classes and cooking classes and managing the garden,” she says. “Birchwood is on the path Fisher is headed down.”

As the garden starts to take shape, expect plenty of opportunity to make it uniquely Fisher, from fencing to pathways to decisions on what plants and trees to grow. But once the planting starts, the students will once again take key roles, switching over from cooking classes to outdoor garden classes and helping run the garden and learn about the produce that comes from it.

“When planting things in the garden they will be super excited because I can say ‘remember that lentil salad you liked?’ and then show them that that is what we are planting here,” Stewart says. “Then they can come with their family in the summer and make the recipes.”

Lentil, kale and all.

Note: The Fisher PTA has committed to helping fund the Common Threads partnership beyond the grant to start the garden. Anyone interested in being a part of the process can contact Ross at the school.