Monday, October 7, 2013

An EGGcelent Start

A proud Laverne in her new home. Photo courtesy of CT.
Harp Elementary has six new teachers: Rosalita, Gertrude, Matilda, Laverne, Shirley and Lucy, our chickens. Classes take turns caring for the chickens, and our three weeks with them have been full of feathery fun. Yesterday a student spotted our first egg, a milestone we celebrated with the Chicken Dance! Harp Elementary School in Springdale, a new FoodCorps site this year, educates almost 650 students, many of whom speak English as a second language. The majority of our students are Hispanic or Pacific Islanders.

The school already has a large garden, founded by teacher Courtney Erickson last year. With 73% of our students qualifying for free and reduced lunches, our ultimate goal is to ensure that each student receives the nutrients and knowledge necessary to extend healthy eating habits beyond the halls of Harp into their homes. I wake up wondering how I am going to do that and fall asleep confident we will exceed our goals because the staff is supportive and the students are eager. The teachers at Harp are innovative leaders, and I am privileged to serve at their sides. We envision a school with a small orchard, native plants garden, green house, outdoor classroom, more chickens, family cooking classes and local food in the cafeteria.

Service member and site supervisor celebrate the first egg 
from their school chickens! Destiny is on the 
left and supervisor CT pictured on the right. 
Photo courtesy of Harp Elementary! 

I facilitate a 45 minute science club for the Harp Kindergarteners every day. Though my classes revolve around nutrition, many subjects are incorporated to maximize students’ learning experiences and excitement! You can find us in the garden on scavenger hunts, preparing soil for fall crops, decorating plates with healthy food rainbows, and singing and reading stories about vegetables. Grades first through fifth have also welcomed me into their classrooms.

Destiny digs in to prep garden beds with her students at Harp.
None of this is to say that our project is easy. It is difficult to decide what goal to tackle first and to create productive fun curriculum. Education is not a job you can leave behind when you go home; we never stop generating ideas for our garden program. But the rewards are so grand that you never want to escape your work.  On my FoodCorps profile it says my love for local food is “as thick as my Southern accent.”  This year FoodCorps serves in 15 states, and I chose to serve in my home state of Arkansas -  often underrated, with a lot of potential. I look forward to guiding its youth towards a healthier future and working with the invaluable farmers that give my state so much charm.  Here at Harp we are not just growing crops; we are growing a strong community full of happy, healthy kids (and chickens, too)!

If you're wild about Harp Elementary's Community garden, you can find more tales of chickens, kids, and food on their facebook page:

-- by Destiny Schlinker

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