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Learning in the Barton Garden!
Tuesday, October 20, 2015 9:35 AM


I began visiting Barton with lessons in healthy eating in 1994. My earliest memories include teaching kids about the wild rice harvest in Felicity’s portable classroom. Back on those days portables stood inside the open “U” shape of the overflowing school, in the space now filled by the great commons.

As you would expect, Felicity was an enthusiastic host, eager to enliven her curriculum with hands-on learning and meaningful life lessons. She would be pleased to learn that this fall, her more recent students, now turned middle schoolers, were once again actively learning about food, this time digging, sifting, and measuring the soil of Barton’s vegetable plots and of the pollinator garden newly created in her honor.

A recent grant from Minneapolis’ Carolyn Foundation, complementing funding from the Wedge Co-op and the Barton Site Council, has allowed the Midwest Food Connection to expand to grades 7/8. This fall Angela and John hosted me for all their science classes. A lesson on water featured soil percolation tests in the gardens, and a student-prepared salad comprised of the top two water-content vegetables and the top water-content fruit. (Any guesses?)  Next we sifted the soil to separate it into garden debris, humus, silt, and clay particles. The tasting for the day was soil-themed—root vegetables, grated by students, in a yoghurt dressing.

Meanwhile the newest member of the MFC teaching team, Emily Houser, was bringing all grade ¾ students into the garden. A scavenger hunt sent kids scampering to all corners to smell herbs and look for plants they recognized, both above and below ground. Some of the same herbs later became toppings for a vegetarian pizza prepared in the classroom.

Thanks go out to the parents and teachers who have supported the creation of Barton’s new outdoor classrooms. Garden learning not only provides excellent opportunities for food learning, but it gives key support to academic objectives and allows more diverse learners to flourish. So long, portable classrooms, hello, schoolyard gardens!