The answers we got from our students 2nd-6th grade were amazing!! They knew so much already about Organic vs. GMO produce. The conversation so quickly and unexpectedly changed to availability in their neighborhood.
With availability taken into consideration for what stores are local, close, convenient or where our students families can shop, our students brought up valid points that Organic is a better product, it's just not as affordable when feeding a family of 5 in the Bay Area. We talked about cost of living, where our food budget fits in. Surprisingly, the students made very compelling arguments for GMO produce because it is engineered to grow in harsh conditions, resist insects, and essentially feed more people. We know there are critics of this. Our students made a well supported case for fresh food availability in their neighborhoods.
When we shop, are we looking at the labels and reading them? We discussed how companies can advertise a city closer to us and actually have the produce grown elsewhere. Look for the difference between where it is grown and where it is packaged.
When thinking about the future and farming and feeding the people that inhabit the world...it's a tall order. OOG loves to explore and expose students to farming techniques such as Hydroponics and Aquaponics. The students quickly figured out how we can be more sustainable with our fresh tomatoes in the winter when we use greenhouses and grow rooms with artificial lights powered by renewable solar energy. What possibilities for the future do you see?
Had to start with the not so fun part of washing dishes! It is a great time to think about how we're going to be efficient with our space. Our students understand that we can't just produce and make a mess. Much like farming and the relationship we have with the world. We have to clean as we go and sometimes clean before we start so we'll be more organized.
We want to enable our young students and teach them to use tools properly, especially when working in the kitchen and using sharp knives, We don't worry or stress about students getting hurt because we emphasize kitchen safety. The students understand they have to pay close attention to their surroundings and focus on what they are cutting. They learn to hold a knife properly to avoid injury and set up a station properly with a towel under cutting boards to avoid sliding, just like they do in restaurant kitchens.
We don't always have the luxury of having gas burners for beautiful cooking with even heat. Sometimes we have electric or induction stove tops because of limitations of the space. Induction cooking is a good alternative for natural gas, that may not be available in some areas. This gets our students to relate their food back to energy production. It is all connected.
We learned about how to make a simple syrup with equal parts sugar and water because lemonade does not come directly from a lemon! That's what some of our students learned after drinking lemon juice they just squeezed - it needs to be sweetened.
Our young OOG students love cooking so much. With limited supplies there's a huge demand for working as a group and in teams because not everyone has their own cutting board, knife, or specialty kitchen gadget.
As we do in every class our students are taught how to step up their stations with wet towels under their cutting boards, trash and compost bins close by to maintain a clean working station. In addition to compost bins, we put out a vegetable stock bin to collect all those flavorful carrot skin peels, loose onion skins, and herb stems. We also discussed how our vegetable waste stock stash can be added to over time and stored in the freezer.
A challenge when cooking with all electric is power in the classroom is having the appropriate power source for the loads our induction burners, panini presses, and stick blenders require. This becomes a bit tricky. We kept tripping our power strip and had to be more aware of what tools we were using at the same time. This could be avoided should we have a big beautiful food truck!!! That's another project though.
Always, always, always we encourage our young OOG's culinary skills by having them use real knives. Our students are empowered when they use sharp paring knives knowing they have to be safe and extremely aware of the task at hand to preform it safely. We want them to build their confidence up and this is our best method of practice. A sharp knife is a safer knife.
From knife skills to stovetop cooking, there is a lot of vocabulary involved. Getting our recipe prepped requires us to peel, dice, and chop. When cooking we learned about searing, sautéing, stirring, deglazing, and blending. It takes a lot to make a OOG SOUP! Since we use induction burners, sometimes the volume of food we are cooking has to be scaled back for the induction burners to handle. Sometimes our pans don't heat as quickly as one may be use to on a gas stovetop.
Our students did such an amazing job handling a day of worksheets filled with technical terms, Spanish, observations, and data recording. It was a major STEM day.
We were absolutely surprised by how much the students loved eating baby carrots. We took a fair amount of "Carrot Breaks" and practiced sharing and counting out our portion size. They devoured a 5 pound bag of carrots in less than a few hours.
Kids/Students love, love, love sugary drinks and we know there have to be some more healthful alternatives they can enjoy. We tried flavored mineral water with 0g of sugar and it was student approved. Our students were more partial to orange flavored mineral water. This gave us a good idea to get a carbonator.
Our Double "O" Gs love working in the garden as builders, data recorders, carpenters, and water suppliers. They learn how each role supports another for getting our lesson accomplished. They learned to succeed by building teamwork within and between the groups.
Writing and recording names, dates, numbers, codes, shapes, temperatures, and whatever else we want to monitor, teaches our OOGs how to make charts, hypothesis, and analyze their findings. One project that we started was calculating and measuring the area for growing beds that North Oakland Community Charter has allocated for our use. Once we knew our growing area we could project future yields measured in pounds.
Often times, when eating we do not consider the real cost it takes to produce our food. We review the importance of exact measurement and how to determine the cost of a portion size.
For us to develop food costs, our OOGs had to understand how to jump between all of the different units of measurements for weight and volume. We recorded the amounts of yogurt, grape nuts, strawberries, and blackberries that went into our delicious parfaits. Sometimes we were measuring with tablespoons or measuring cups and other times we talked about how to use a scale to measure in grams, ounces, and pounds. We had to learn when it was appropriate to use a volume or weight measurement. How we could count the number of strawberries in a container and find the average weight and cost of a single berry.
The first step in writing a recipe is to record measurements. Our OOGs learned the importance of recipes from costing to quality and consistency standards. Once we had a recipe, we could figure out how much it costs to produce. However, we weren't able to produce those statistics until we knew the cost of our food broken down into ounces or tablespoons.
Farms don't only grow produce. They have to have a dynamic system of different crops that work to support each other. Our OOGs planted Asylum flowers for warding off some insects we don't want and to attract all the beautiful butterflies, bees, and bird pollinators. We practiced digging appropriate size holes to transplant our flowers.
We take time to review with all of our OOGs when its best to use a sowing style of planting vs. creating starts to transplant. It depends how the plant grows! Transplanting also takes time and planning because you should know before you plant the condition of your soil. Our OOGs also love the opportunity to enjoy fresh, less processed snacks. Let's face it, all of our produce is handled and processed to some extent, The question is do you know how much?
For squash or tomato plants, where each plant produces a bounty of fruit or vegetables, fewer plants are needed. When we are depending on only a few plants to grow in a certain area using a start ensures that our plant will be successful. When each seed only produces the quantity of a single vegetable, like a carrot or radish, we sow a lot of seeds. Once the seeds sprout and grow they are thinned to an appropriate amount of plants for the space.
Not many people know of this wonderland in the East Oakland Hillside above 98th and Stearns. Bishop O'Dowd for many years now has expanded their outdoor classroom the "Living Lab" into a newly built facility for two classrooms alongside their extremely dynamic landscape of trees, native plants, planter boxes, and chickens. They were very kind to us and donated a flat of many different tomato varieties from larger heirloom to smaller novelty cherry size.
Our students love eating cuties and carrots! It's so great to see young minds choosing to eat healthful snacks. Our goal is positive reinforcement for the smart choice they're making! Our particular class was experiencing an unusually hot day and we wanted to award our hard workers with popsicles. We talked about how they could make their own at home and have for a treat instead of Ice Cream.
Before we start planting there have to be well thought out plans for placing our starts or seeds. To help ensure our plants health and success we like to add in some soil, compost, or manure and mix everything up. It gives more life and food to your soil for these plants to thrive. We also learn during this process any weeds or pesky bugs we may have that need to be feed to our chickens!!!
When we are brainstorming what to cook for dinner one concept to focus on is "How can we use any leftovers for another meal?". Making food like rice, beans, pasta are examples of staple cooking that can easily snuck into new meals. For not only cooking every business will examine their waste or the byproduct from their staple corp or produced product and imagine how they can make money off the waste. Vegetable oil for cars from used fryers would be a great example of taking waste and turning it to another product.
Restaurants, Grocery Stores, and food manufactures all have to incorporate their cost of doing business (Rent, Labor, Material Goods, Packaging, Shipping, Etc) when figuring out their cost and retail price $. Often times why we have subsidies to help ensure consistency for the farmer and the manufacture of these raw products.
Great way to practice our knife skills is first having good habits with our station. We talked about the importance of keeping a wet towel under your cutting board to reduce the chance of a wandering cutting surface. OOGs also are expected to maintain a clean work area with containers for organizing our garbage, compost, veg stock, and final product. Clear surfaces without unnecessary product prevents us from making super strange and unsafe cutting techniques.
Great way to practice your cutting skills for holding a knife comfortably and safe while challenging yourself for consistency specific size cuts comes from making stock. There are really only 3 vegetables you need! Celery, Onion, Carrots, and water of course. You can always add in onion peels that aren't chopped and carrot peels from another meal at another time. Some OOGs even set all these delicious desired vegetable scrapes in a specific stock bag kept in the freezer. Another way for us to save money from the waste of another meal.
You'll never know how much you love salad until you make homemade dressing. Our students devour salad when its freshly dressed with Balsamic Vinaigrette they all contribute in making. We stick to a basic 3-1 Oil to Vinegar and also use a blend Canola/EVOO, Mustard, Salt, and Pepper.
Following up again on how to transform waste into another meal would be chicken stock. When we made chicken tacos we shredded all the meat off of the bones. Then instead of throwing all those juicy, roasted, sweat, savory bones into the trash. We tossed them into our stock pot to boil with all the carrots, onions, and celery we practiced our cutting on.
Going off site and onto an adventure of a whole new setting is such an exhilarating way to learn. All your sense are are extra curious mode because you've never walked the land, heard the swarms of bees or clucking of chickens.
In 2016 City Slicker Farms opened their long awaited Farm Park in West Oakland on Peralta. Instantly it was a major #DoubleOGApproved style project that took them a lot of hard earned hours and input from the community. It has taken off and made such a huge impact in our Oakland community for access of a large farm in a city setting.
The students of our spring 2019 class at North Oakland Community Charter have chickens already except the space at City Slicker Farms is so much more roomy! It was a treat to visit their sight and give young OOGs an opportunity to pick up chickens and peacefully hold them.
Bees are such a hot topic in environmental community because of their dealing population. City Slicker Farms has a beautiful Honey Bee Hive set up within their chicken range that our brave OOG students got to stand by and allow the bees to dance all around us.
The Farm Park provides such a wonderful space for City Slicker Farms to have large areas for cultivating food for their workshops, to give out to volunteers, or available at their farm stand. Also makes for a great model to explain the amount of space, time, labor, water, protection, and patience to grow our food within minutes of our homes.
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