All Saints Episcopal School fourth-grader Bric Billion loves the gardening experience and working together with his classmates to grow produce for the school cafeteria.
On Wednesday morning, the All Saints lower school students, in first through fourth grade, were prepping and leveling the dirt to plant Brussels sprouts.
Bric said Brussels sprouts are the best.
“I love it because it’s a lot of teamwork to do it. It’s just a lot of fun to come out outdoors,” he said. “It’s a lot of teamwork and it all comes together in the end.”
Bric said he enjoys planting fruits and veggies like watermelons and cabbages at his grandma’s house.
“It’s just wonderful to have the garden experience,” Bric said.
Head of School Mike Cobb said the learning farm at All Saints is the largest one of its kind in Texas. The produce is harvested by students and the plants then go to the school’s cafeteria for students to eat what they made.
First- through fourth-grade students each have a job on the farm, while the three-, four- and five-year-olds who attend All Saints early learning programs help out a little bit, Cobb said.
Cobb explained that farming helps teach the kids about resiliency, empathy and sustainability.
“Anytime you have to care for something that needs you, it goes to a deeper level,” he said.
Chef Michael Brady, director of food service at All Saints, oversees the learning farm and said the experience teaches the kids both nurturing skills and the importance of risk-taking.
“It’s the coolest thing next to sliced bread,” Brady said. “Nurturing is the most important lesson. It’s a great lesson in selflessness.”
Math and science teachers use the farm time to show students real-life scenarios of academics.
“They get to see all the work on the farm and where their food comes from,” Brady said.
He said it’s cool to see the kids identify the produce they grew on the farm and the circle of the food’s life.
Brady also sees the students’ eating habits change for the better, and they become more comfortable with trying new things.
“Risk-taking is probably my favorite part of this,” he said. “Risk-taking and nurturing are two of the biggest things to take away. I think the nurturing helps the kids think about something other than themselves.”
All Saints lower school students have been planting on the farm for three years. Cobb added the school has placed further emphasis on outdoor learning due to COVID-19, and said the farming educates students about healthy eating habits to hopefully combat illnesses.
All Saints students go through the Junior Master Gardener curriculum by the fourth grade and become Master Gardener certified by the time they leave the lower school.
Cobb said the teachers use the farm to educate kids about math, science and storytelling.
“The farm experience can make a learning deeper,” Cobb said.
Fourth-grader Evie Lambert said she enjoys learning about the plants and watching them grow.
“I love being outside, it’s one of my favorite things,” she said. “I like that we get to watch the plants grow. It’s really fun.”
Katie Johnson, pre-K through fourth-grade science enrichment teacher, said the students are able to gain hands-on experience and see applications of soil PH levels, plant growth and pollination and learn the hard lessons of farming.
Students are divided up into groups for farming and each one has their own specialized task within the process.
“I think they also get the benefit of knowing it takes more than one person to make it work,” Johnson said. “Getting to taste something they’ve grown makes them more willing to try something new. I hope they take away that they can help people in the cafeteria.”
Johnson hopes the kids learn accountability as they grow something from seed to harvest time.