Stuffing scarecrows, painting pumpkins, cooking lunch over hot coals, and playing musical chairs… These are not your everyday school activities. But this is how the students at Westminster Center School spent the morning of October 29, when they celebrated their first Farm and Field Day.
Students from grades K-6 took part in six different activities crafted to link students to the outdoors and celebrate the harvest season. In addition to the excitement of scarecrows, pumpkins, and musical chairs (renamed “Boo-tiful Music!” in honor of the holiday), students went on a story walk, harvested kale from the garden for lunch, watched working farm equipment in action, and watched as the chicken for their kale salad cooked over coals in the outdoor cinder block kitchen, the “Cinder Cafe,” built especially for this event.
Despite the frigid temperatures, students were excited to be outside. “The best part is you get to have fresh air!” remarked Scarlett, a second-grader. “I’m having fun! It’s very fun!” exclaimed first-grader Anthony Lakeside. And fourth-grader Jenny said her favorite activity of the day was harvesting kale. “You get to peel all the leaves off!”.
The librarian and Garden Coordinator, Mandy Walsh, said she was inspired by a similar event at Newbrook Elementary several years ago. Mandy has been growing the Farm to School program at Westminster for years and was excited to host her first Farm and Field Day. “We are so lucky to have the resources of gardens, animals, woods, and fields, and we live in a historically agricultural community. The day was about celebrating what's around us, coming together as a school community, and being joyful.” In reflecting on the success of the event, Mandy remarked, “I think that in the big picture, the best student learning happens when students get to be outside, working together, trying new things (food and activities). These are the days our students remember with fondness when they think back on their elementary school days.”
The Farm to School Team at Westminster is already planning future events and is flush with ideas of building on the tradition they’ve started. One thought was that perhaps next year, the sixth-graders could lead the stations rather than the teachers. Cheers to Westminster Center School for growing and cultivating leaders in the Farm to School Movement!
Food Connects is an entrepreneurial non-profit that delivers locally produced food as well as educational and consulting services aimed at transforming local food systems. The Food Hub aggregates and delivers from over 115 regional farms and food producers to over 225 buyers in southeast Vermont, southwest New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts. Their educational services focus on Farm to School programming. Acknowledged as a statewide leader, the program supports over 30 schools to increase local food purchasing, school meal participation, and food, farm, and nutrition education. Together these core programs contribute to a vibrant local economy by increasing local food purchases by schools and improving students’ nutrition and academic performance. Food Connects is frequently hired to provide leadership and consulting services for efforts to support food systems initiatives throughout New England and act as a catalyst for change.