Students in our 7th/ 8th grade elective class have been learning about all aspects of the food system--from labor to food access and methods of production to food waste. As we approach each of these topics, students have been asked to use a food justice lens to ask, are these methods equitable and sustainable? In this assignment, students were tasked with envisioning how one area of our food system might be made more equitable and sustainable. Thanks to the students who agreed to let us share their work!
Making farms local and smaller
Making farms more local and small can help climate change in many ways:
Benefits of being local
Not only is it cool to know that the food you cook with is grown locally but it is great for the climate. Local food production would help because there is less transportation involved which would cut down carbon emotions by a lot.
Smaller farms would most likely grow more than one type of crop which is called biodiversity which is very beneficial to the earth.
In their most recent journal entries, students were asked to reflect on some of the challenges and successes they have experienced throughout the school year in Growing Leaders. Naomi, Annabelle, and Sarai share their stories below.
In Growing Leaders this year I learned a lot about customer service, and about how businesses work in general. I also met a lot of new people, which was awesome, and I think that counts as a success. I found it challenging to determine our profit after selling a meal because it actually took pretty long. I think it’s surprising that we can usually guess how many meals or add-ons we will end up selling, and have time to finish making them, but we always are making enough and not selling too many. I think sometimes it can be challenging to get everything done in time, but because of that I learned more about teamwork and how if everyone helps out everything will be done. I also learned knife skills, which are really useful to know, and I got a lot better at preparing meals.
-Naomi, 8th grade
One success I’ve had this year was developing my team working and leading skills more. Since it’s my second year, I’ve developed more skills especially as an IWE. It has been really fun and helpful for my future jobs. One challenging thing about growing leaders is that sometimes things happen unexpectedly but it makes it more fun. For example, when the cakes didn’t work out we had to make new ones quickly, but it makes it more like a real restaurant experience.
-Annabelle, 8th grade IWE (second year student)
One success I’ve had so far this year in Growing Leaders is learning more about the garden and crops. I didn’t know about cover crop very much or what it does, and now I do. I’ve also learned how to correctly turn the soil and what that helps with. One thing that was surprising to me was how hard it was to know how much of each ingredient to have. I learned about recipe tests and knowing what to add or take away from the recipe. Also, a few times this year we’ve either had too much or too little of an ingredient and had to go back to the store or had a lot of leftovers.
-Sarai, 8th grade
After students brainstormed ways to grow the Growing Leaders business, they got together in committees to make several of these ideas a reality. Below, Erin, Alex, and Silas talk about some of the successes and challenges they experienced while getting the Breakfast Club and the Growing Leaders Cookbook off the ground.
One success this year in Growing Leaders is the morning coffee stand. That’s the group that I was in and we actually put our plan in action and now it’s happening once a month! It feels good that we made that happen.
-Erin, 8th grade
I was really happy with the Breakfast Club stand, which I was on the committee for. It is cool that it was so successful on its’ first sale and I think it’s really good for reaching our financial goal. I hope it continues to grow.
Something I found surprising was that it is hard to start new projects because everyone has to agree, we have to figure out where to get the money/ goods, and how to make sure that it would make us money consistently.
-Alex, 7th grade
One success I’ve had in this class was helping to finish the cookbook. I didn’t do all that much, but I did assist with this, which succeeded. I worked with the rest of the committee to create a published, artistic notebook.
-Silas, 7th grade
While not working hard in the garden and recipe testing, Growing Leaders students have been reflecting on our business and marketing strategies. Students were asked to imagine themselves as CEO of Growing Leaders, and write a journal entry proposing a new idea to help us meet our 2019 financial goal. The most popular proposals were selected and students have been working in committees to make each a reality. Read on to see what Gwen, Sanam, and Olaf had to say:
I think that we should make a cookbook that people can buy, which includes all of our recipes. I think we should do this because from our comments, we know that many people would buy them. Also, you might think that people would stop buying our meals if they could make them at home, but they wouldn’t always want to be cooking, and people probably want to support our business. I also think we should put flyers up around school with instructions on how to order a meal, This would be good for people like 6th graders, and people who aren’t in Growing Leaders. They would know how to order and when.
-Sanam, 7th grade
As we are $4,000 behind out goal, starting in January, there will be changes. First of all, we would begin to sell GL merchandise online and at the sale, and we would open an online tip jar. We would also make a presentation to give in advisory classes at school, to go with an announcement in Willard Word and the Willard E-Tree. We would start printing flyers to post around Berkeley and use student Instagrams to shoutout GL as some people have 200+ followers that would boost awareness. We could also cut back on snack, but not all the way because it adds up lots of money. Lastly we would open up more business opportunities like more kinds of desserts and drinks.
-Olaf, 7th grade
As the CEO of Growing Leaders, I think that we should focus on having morning coffee and baked goods sales. I also think that making a cookbook could be a good idea to improve sales. For morning coffee, we could set up a stand at the garden gate, and have parents drive by and pick up coffee and add ons. We could do it on Monday mornings, because people are usually very tired, and they could just come by and pick up their breakfast. Customers have already asked for a cookbook, and I think we could make a lot of money selling it.
-Gwen, 7th grade
Mimia, Elta, and Calin on determining our 2018 financial goal
I think the process for voting was a really great way to help with the class itself. Not only is Growing Leaders a cooking and gardening class, but it is a business class as well. Letting the students of the class decide the financial goal is a great way to have them learn how a business works and how we can improve it. The voting process was good because there was a strong equilibrium with everyone’s vote (including the teachers) because they were worth the same. It was a great learning experience.
-Mimia, 7th grade
In this process, I liked that it was democratic. I feel like if the adults chose I wouldn’t feel part of the business. The only difficult part for me was trying to talk to our representative about what he needed to say. I think that you should give the middle schoolers decision making power, but in moderation. For example, letting us choose this number made me feel way more involved with the company, but if we ran the school, there’d be trampolines and waterslides everywhere. That’s what I thought of this experience.
-Elta, 7th grade
The student led decision making went well because everyone worked to come up with a decision and we did it efficiently. The difficult thing was that not all people voted for something they actually wanted. I think letting us make decisions is good because then we can make sure all the ideas everyone has can get heard.
-Calin, 7th grade
Pictured: Auvie and Maya
Norah, Ella, and Maya
Growing Leaders is an AWESOME class. It’s not just cooking and gardening, but a production kitchen and a business! I was so excited when we wore HAIRNETS to cook for the public- I felt so professional! I also love that we, the kids, get to make the decisions. Overall I have had an amazing time so far, especially making our first meal for the public last week. I am already learning so much, and having fun with my classmates and the activities at the same time.
-Norah, 7th grade
When you’re making meals for yourself not everything needs to be perfect, but making it for the public you need to be on point. There’s no time for chopping each of your little carrot sticks individually. Honestly, it was a little more stressful, there are so many questions that pop in your head, for example, What if last year’s growing leaders is better than this year’s? What if the profit doesn’t reach our financial goal? The moment I got into Growing Leaders I knew I would volunteer on meal night because I love to cook and bake and I wanted to learn tips for marketing and be a businesswoman.
-Ella, 7th grade
Growing Leaders is a business, a community, and a fun place to learn important skills! During the week of our first meal, I was expecting less responsibility. In elementary school, we measured and cut bit but now in Growing Leaders we have a lot more to do. Most of the decisions are up to us and I like the feeling that I’m doing something important. When I make a meal for myself, I’m usually pretty messy and not that precise. But knowing that the food Im making will be for other people makes me act a lot more careful. I like the experience a lot but one of the challenges I personally face is working with other people productively. I’m used to doing all of the work myself and so teamwork and equally sharing work and listening to other opinions is sometimes hard for me. But I’m getting better at those skills and Growing Leaders is fun way of teaching me how. All in all, Growing Leaders is a great chance for more experience and I’m excited for the coming year.
-Maya, 8th grade
Elias & Jesus
Something hard in this class is doing things we’re not comfortable with, and one thing we are not at ease about is about cutting onions. The reason why we don’t like to cut onions its because they hurt and while we’re blinking and letting tears run down our faces we’re afraid of cutting ourselves. What we like about this class is they make us get over our fears and teach many handy skills so we don’t cut ourselves.
It was a warm school day. Third period. I had just got my popsicle stick pulled out of the plastic green cup. Crap! My turn to cut onions: the worst job in the whole program. I stepped outside, and right away I could feel the strongness of the onions. I sat down and starting cutting. My eyes starting hurting more, and I accidentally cut my finger and it started to bleed. I had to get a band-aid but what I like to remember about this story is that I finished the job.
The best/most annoying/most nerve-racking experience I’ve had in Growing Leaders so far is probably when we sold chile in November. It was pouring rain, which was extremely awesome, even though the (absolutely positively beautiful) sign Fae and I put outside ended up being destroyed. At one point, everyone got extremely worried because we thought we had miscounted and were short of *literally* everything we packed out, and on top of that, we forgot to put sugar in every batch of cornbread that we made (which didn’t actually taste that bad when it was eaten with the chile). And to top everything off, the meal was at the same time as the culture fair, so I had to periodically run all the way across the school’s campus (in the pouring rain, mind you), and make an appearance at the fair so I would get credit, and run back to the school kitchen (still in the pouring rain) to sell meals again. But in spite of all of the hassle, it was a pretty fun experience overall to run around in the kitchen selling meals to everyone, including my gardening teacher from elementary school, Rivka.
This class has stood out because it is a different kind of learning experience. It teaches us business, culinary, and agricultural skills that are helpful in and outside of school and well beyond Willard. We spend at least 30 minutes a day either in the Willard garden or kitchen. In the garden we plant and harvest crops for our locally grown, locally sold meals. We also make compost, plant cover crops, and make sure our garden is well cared for. In the Willard kitchen, we strengthen our culinary skills and prepare the vegetables grown in the willard garden.
One thing that particularly stood out to me was the day we played iron chef. We were given some ingredients and one hour to make a meal. We were not given any help and had to rely on what we knew. Every group had to make a main dish and side dish or dessert without a recipe. From homemade pasta to frittatas, we all made dishes as groups. At the end of the class, no one felt there were any losers or winners. We all worked well together and asked for other people’s opinions before we made any decision no matter if it was to add another clove of garlic or put the bread in the oven. The whole game taught us the importance of teamwork. This class is an escape from the average classroom and days like this make school better.
We are still working on getting some blog posts up! Until that time, enjoy a past post about one of our favorite activities from last year, our Iron Chef competition!
April 30, 2014
The students wait in their groups for the secret ingredient to be revealed. With a flourish, the cloth is pulled away from the platter and underneath are...strawberries!
This is 7th/8th grade Leadership's Iron Chef competition. Each group will make a main dish and a dessert, with one plate for the judges and another plate for their competitors to try. The teams will be judged on the following criteria:
The girls were given a list of available ingredients prior to class and were free to prepare as much or as little as they wanted. Immediately, Makiyah at Table 2 pulls out a recipe for sugar cookies, to which they plan on adding strawberries. They immediately start making the cookies, knowing that they'll have to bake. With mac n' cheese, a kale and strawberry salad, and cheesy roasted broccoli, Table 2 isn't fooling around!
Table 1 has ambitious plans, making cookies and cutting them into stars and flowers, and using the tortilla press to make fresh tortillas to go with their curried black eyed peas and collards filling. They also have plans for a smoothie beverage to accompany their meal.
Table 3 gets full points for creativity. They turn their fruit into an elaborate fruit platter. They also invented an apple cake with cinnamon, and cooked some greens and a simple pasta for the main.
All three tables' dishes turn out beautifully, and the scores are incredibly close. In the end though, it is Table 2 that claims the victory, for exceeding across the board in all the categories.
Until Next Time!
The Willard Cooking and Gardening Program