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A Recipe for Success: Kids, Dirt, and Gardening

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation
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On warm spring days, instead of leaving their hearts and minds in the classroom, my students often turned to the outdoors.

The study of plant life is a staple in biology curricula -- children explore seeds and how plants grow, young adolescents focus on cells, and teenagers continue their studies with more in-depth investigations of botany and plant physiology.

Reading about plants is usual in the traditional school curriculum, but working with the soil, growing different varieties of plants, and eating the plants you grow is uncommon.

However, my plant lessons rarely required a textbook. The scope and sequence of my lessons on plants ranged from learning about soils (undertaking a soil profile) to studying seeds ("What is a seed?"), digging in the dirt (good for building strong bodies and minds), and making a classroom garden.


I had a lot of help from the local 4-H agent, who conducted soil profiles for me and provided eggs for our chick-hatching observations. From time to time, the agent would stop by the classroom to share and to see how things were going.

The local 4-H Club did professional soil samples for the class garden and other gardens in our community. We learned about soil layers, textural classes, color, water-holding capacity, organic content, and pH balance. We also discovered how to alter the soil in order to make it better for our work.

All this made my students think more about the dirt beneath our feet. Soil is one of our most important natural resources, and it's important that students know about this aspect of the natural world and apply their knowledge to important factors such as land use, erosion, pollution, and urban planning.

School Gardens

There is no salad in the world as wonderful as the one you grow yourself, especially for students who have never tasted a homegrown tomato or pulled lettuce and other salad fixings from the rich earth. I remember being on a farm in the summertime with a saltshaker in my pocket, sampling the soil's tasty bounty. But my students didn't know where their food came from.

At another school where I worked, however, there were strawberry gardens. During recess, we would check on the progress of the strawberries, and, later in the season, we'd eat them -- so delicious!

A parent then convinced me to do a gardening project. He brought his little tractor and plowed the land, bought us tools and seeds, and contributed his know-how. An important learning was to plant only varieties of crops that are harvested early in the area so that we could collect and eat our lessons before school got out for the summer. We found out about the National Gardening Association and applied for and received a Youth Garden Grants award.

Let me direct you to some resources for ideas about gardening lessons and activities. Start planning now for the next school year so you can cultivate a more interesting way to learn about plants! And please add your own advice and thoughts about how to enrich learning about gardening. Resources

Down & Dirty: Getting a Handle on Mother Nature

Garden of Eating: Middle Schoolers Grow Their Own Lunch

That's Soil, Folks!: Garden Gear That's Not Garden Variety

Play with Food: A Game Teaches Healthy Diets

Veggies to the People: The People's Grocery Store

Other Resources

A Soil Profile (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

The Great Plant Escape: What Is a Seed? (University of Illinois Extension)

Planting Science (Botanical Society of America)

Fast Plants (University of Wisconsin at Madison)

Bottle Biology (University of Wisconsin at Madison)

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Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation

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Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation


Sponsor. Welch's Harvest Grants ("Contest") is sponsored by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.

Register here

Eligibility. Eligible schools/organizations are public and private schools and accredited home school associations (K-8), public libraries, religious educational centers and Head Start centers having any of the grades K through 8 and a minimum of 15 students in the classroom located in the 50 United States and District of Columbia ("Eligible Institutions"). Entries must be received from "School Officials" in order to be valid. "School Officials" may be any of the following: U.S. residents who are at least 18 years of age and employees or volunteers on behalf of any Eligible Institution, including teachers, administrators, assistants and teacher's aides, as well as any parent or guardian of any student who is designated by the school to be a "School Official" for purposes of this of Contest.
Employees, officers, directors, agents, representatives and independent contractors of the Sponsor, (includingScholastic Inc., Welch's, and the National Gardening Association) and each of their respective parent, subsidiary and affiliated companies, together with the immediate family members and members of the same households (whether related or not) of each of the foregoing are not eligible to participate. This Contest is subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited or restricted by law, including but not limited to those jurisdictions with laws that would require registration and/or trust account or posting of a bond, or any other requirements.
Agreement to Rules. By submitting an entry, Contest entrants agree to be bound by these Official Contest Rules. Entrants further agree that the Sponsor shall retain full authority, in its sole discretion, to interpret and administer these rules, and to be bound by all decisions and interpretations made in good faith by the Sponsor.
Entry. The Contest begins on October 26, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time ("PDT") and ends on February 6, 2010 at 11:59 pm PDT (the "ContestPeriod"). To participate, each entry must be accompanied by Official Welch's Harvest Grants Application. Entries are only valid if they are sent in by a School Official (as defined above).
Grant Application: A Contest grant application, is available from;; or; and must accompany each. Include the first name, last name of the entering School Official, school name, school address (including zip code), email address, daytime telephone number (including area code), and affiliation to school or organization (teacher, administrator, volunteer, designated parent, etc.), type of organization; number of students and student demographics; and essays on why the entrant's classroom should receive a grant. All entries must be postmarked by 11:59 p.m. PDT on February 6, 2010 to: National Gardening Association, Attn: Welch's Harvest Grants; 1100 Dorset Street; South Burlington, VT 05403.
Proof of sending will not be deemed to be proof of receipt by the Sponsor. Entries become the property of the Sponsor.
Accuracy of Information Contained in Entry. By submitting an entry, each Contest entrant warrants and represents to the Sponsor that the information contained in the entry is true and correct in all material respects and that the Sponsor may rely on such information in its efforts to comply with applicable laws and regulations.
Selection of Winners and Notification. A total of one hundred (100) winners will receive a school garden award. Two (2) schools from each state will be selected from all qualified applications on or about March 8, 2010, by the Sponsor and the National Gardening Association, whose decision will be final and binding. Winners will be notified by email within approximately five (5) business days after selection. If selected winners have not responded to email inquiries within 3 days, we will attempt to contact winners by telephone. If winners cannot be reached by telephone within 48 hours of first phone attempt to notify such winners, the prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner may be selected, at the Sponsor's discretion. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received.
Prize. The Sponsor will award a total of one hundred (100) school gardens. Five (5) $1,000 garden packages; twenty-five (25) $500 garden packages; and seventy (70) $250 garden packages will be awarded. Two schools in every state will be awarded school gardens if their application is selected as a winner. Winning applicants will have the option of receiving an indoor or outdoor garden package.
Garden packages consist of:
$1,000 INDOOR Garden Package:
1. Flip Cam Digital Video Recorder, 2. GrowLab Master 3-Tier Light Garden, 3. GrowLab Book Package, 4. GrowLab Activities, 5. Deluxe Seed Starting Kit, 6. Can-O-Worms Indoor Composter, 7. Worms Eat Our Garbage, 8. 4 Paper Potmakers, 9. Indoor Gardening Tools
$1,000 OUTDOOR Garden Package:
1. Flip Cam Digital Video Recorder, 2.Multi-Level Raised Bed Set, 3. Compost Tumbler, 4. 18-Piece Kid's Tools, 5. Little Gardener's Wheelbarrow, 6. Zinc Plant Markers, 2 sets, 7. Mosaic Butterfly Stepping Stone Kit, 8. Ladybug House, 9. 30 Kids Gardening Journals, 10. Growing Classroom, 11. Botany on Your Plate, 12. Eat a Rainbow Kit, 13. Vegetable Garden Seeds, 14. Kids Work Gloves, 6 pair, 15. Jumbo Garden Thermometer
$500 INDOOR Garden Package:
1. GrowLab Slimline 2-Tier Light Garden, 2. GrowLab Book Package, 3. GrowLab Activities, 4. Standard Seed-Starting Kit, 5. 2 Paper Potmakers
$500 OUTDOOR Garden Package:
1. 2 Link-a-Bord, 2. 12 Piece Kid's Tools, 3. Zinc Plant Markers, 4. 30 Kids Gardening Journals, 5. Growing Classroom, 6. Eat a Rainbow Kit, 7. Kids Work Glove, 3 pair
$250 INDOOR Garden Package:1. GrowLab Compact Light Garden, 2. GrowLab Book Package, 3. Basic Seed-Starting Kit, 4. Paper Pot Maker
$250 OUTDOOR Garden Package:1. Link-a-Bord, 2. 6-Piece Kids Tools, 3. Vegetable Garden Seeds, 4. 30 Kids Gardening Journals, 5. Botany on Your Plate
Awards will be shipped directly to the winners by the National Gardening Association. The Sponsor is not responsible for prizes that are lost, misdelivered or damaged by the postal service or any carrier. Sponsor and National Gardening Association reserve the right to change or modify the prize and substitute a prize of equal or greater value. Winners are solely responsible for any costs and expenses due in connection with the prizes not specified herein, including without limitation, all applicable federal, state and local taxes, telephone calling fees, and any other costs, fees and expenses relating to the prize and/or this Contest. Prizes may not be transferred or assigned. Prize Restrictions. Each Eligible Institution may win only one prize. The Sponsor reserves the right to require winners to show proof of identity prior to receiving prizes. Before prizes are released, winners must execute an Affidavit of Eligibility and Release attesting to their identity and eligibility to participate in this Contest and releasing the Sponsor and its affiliates from all claims, causes of action and liability relating to the Contest and the prize(s). Sponsor will mail the Affidavit to each winning Eligible Institution, and winners will have ten (10) business days from receipt of said Affidavit to complete and return the documents to Sponsor. If these documents are returned as undeliverable or are not completed and returned by such deadline or if a potential winner does not meet the eligibility or other requirements of the Contest, the prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner may be selected. The Sponsor is not responsible for prize information or documents that are lost or misdelivered by the postal service or carrier.
Release. By acceptance of any prize, the winning Eligible Institution and entrant each agree to release, hold harmless and indemnify the Sponsor, Welch's and the National Gardening Association, and their respective subsidiaries, affiliates, suppliers, distributors, advertising/promotional agencies, assignees, licensees, attorneys, representatives and prize suppliers, and each of their respective parent companies and each such company's officers, directors, employees and agents (collectively, the "Released Parties") from and against any claim or cause of action, including, but not limited to, personal injury, death, or damage to or loss of property, arising out of participation in the Contest or receipt, use or misuse of any prize awarded herein.
Announcement of Winners. The Sponsor will post the name and city of the winning schools at following the completion of the Sweepstakes and verification and qualification of all winners on or around April 15, 2010.
Use of Winners' Names. By submitting an entry, entrant acknowledges and agrees that, if your school is selected as a winner, we will post the school's name and city at Each winning school that accepts any prize will be deemed thereby to have granted to us the right, at any time and from time to time, to print, publish, broadcast and use, worldwide and in any media now known or hereafter developed, including but not limited to, the Internet and world wide web, the winning school's name and city. Winning schools may also be requested, after awarding of any prize, to participate in further promotional activities. Participation in such activities (other than the promotional release of the winning school's name and city) is not a condition of participation in the Contest.
Unlawful Conduct and Disqualification. The Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any Contest entrant who the Sponsor determines, in its sole discretion, is (a) tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Contest or of any web site owned, operated or controlled by the Sponsor or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies; (b) ineligible to participate in the Contest for any reason, including based upon the entrant's age, residency or failure to comply with these official rules; (c) submitting more than the allowed number of entries during the Contest Period; or (d) behaving in a disruptive manner or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person.
Indemnification. Each Contest entrant and entering Eligible Institution agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Released Parties from and against any loss, damage or expense (including court costs and attorneys' fees) that the Sponsor, and/or any of the Released Parties together with each of their parent, subsidiary, and affiliated companies, and each of its and their successors or assigns, may suffer or incur as a result or in conjunction or connection with theContest, or the prizes awarded to any winner (including, without limitation, the receipt and/or use of said prizes).
Amendments. We reserve the right to suspend, cancel, terminate or modify the Contest without advance notice in the event we believe, in our sole discretion, that any computer virus, worms, bugs, tampering, spamming, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or other errors or problem beyond our control could corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of the Contest, and thereafter to re-commence such Contest, if at all, only at such time(s) and upon such terms and conditions as we shall deem reasonable under the circumstances.
Severability. If any one or more provisions of these Official Contest Rules are held to be invalid, illegal or unenforceable by a court of competent jurisdiction, such invalidity, illegality or unenforceability shall not affect the validity, effect or enforcement of any other provision or provisions of these Official Contest Rules.
Winners List. For a copy of the winners list, send a self-addressed stamped envelope postmarked prior to May 1, 2010 to: Welch's Harvest Grants Winners List; c/o Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 For a copy of the rules visit
Governing Law; Jurisdiction; Venue. These Official Contest Rules are governed by and shall be construed by the laws of the State of Vermont, without application of its choice of law principles. Any dispute that may arise hereunder, if not settled by the parties directly or through alternate dispute resolution, shall be brought solely in the appropriate state or federal court sitting in Vermont, and entrant consents to the personal jurisdiction and venue thereof.
Force Majeure. The failure of the Sponsor to comply with any provision of this Official Contest Rules due to an act of God, hurricane, war, terrorism, fire, riot, earthquake, actions of governmental authorities outside the control of the Sponsor or other force majeure event shall not be considered a breach of these Official Contest Rules.


Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation

"Organic. It's Worth It in Schools" Contest ~ Deadline: May 1
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is sponsoring a campaign and contest to empower parents, teachers, students, and others to request that their schools offer organic food. Public and private schools as well as colleges and universities based in the United States are eligible to compete in the contest. To participate, schools must encourage their community to subscribe to the free "Organic. It's Worth It in Schools" electronic newsletter and cast a vote for their school. (The newsletter includes organic tips, recipes, news, and more.) The school that receives the most votes will win an organic garden package or a fully stocked organic vending machine. official contest rules.

Steve Simons - 16917's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is a great way for kids to learn while having fun outdoors. They may even pick up a new hobby that mom will appreciate. Just a helpful tip however, maker sure to use a soil sifter when preparing the soil for the upcoming summer flowers.

Steve Simons - 16917's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is a great way for kids to learn while having fun outdoors. They may even pick up a new hobby that mom will appreciate. Just a helpful tip however, maker sure to use a soil sifter when preparing the soil for the upcoming summer flowers.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation

Parsley, Sage , Rosemary and Thyme ... (and Parents and Friends in Learning Communities)

If you visited my yard and container garden, you would see peppers, tomatoes , lettuce (ready to eat) and all manner of herbs. You would think my mother was the one who guided me to the raising of an herb garden but she did flowers and fruit, not herbs.
Parents in a learning community helped me to create a garden experience and I have continued to learn since then. Containers have become wonderful because I have builder's rubble. Many schools use earth boxes and containers.

Parsley escapes out of one of those specialized clay jars, and all types of basil grow toward the sunny yard. At first, I had to keep looking in the book to remember what the herbs were , but that was before I discovered the real cooks on the Cooking Channel. That helped me to recognize some of the more exotic herbs. There are so many kinds of parsley, basil and I still have to look in a book to see epazote. I am told that it is best fresh. So I grow it. Some herbs are very stubborn in growth. Using the herbs helps to identify.But a chart or poster could help with identification. I do have the catalog from DiBaggio Herbs which is like a little book on all things in the world of herbs. All reading is not in a book these days. There are lots of web sites that help with identification of plants, fruits and herbs.

Youth Garden Guide

Science of Seasonings - Kitchen Lab
Recipes and art activities.
Grant Information. Kids Gardening

Classroom Projects Library

Spice Map
The characteristic tastes of a region's cuisine begin with signature blends of spices.
The art of mixing spices is at the heart of a cook's skill.

Click on the regions of the map and experiment with these blends from various parts of the world.

Share your thoughts and tastes on the exploratorijm bulletin board.

Classroom Help, Parents, 4-H and National Gardening Association

I think it was the cost of the herbs, the 4-H units that I used to do and some little influence from the Cooking Channel that I use now to learn. It may have also been a decision I made because of world eating adventures.

I was influenced by a parent ,Tom DeBaggio, who came to school to teach my 4th grade students about herbs. I remember thinking what herbs did I use? For some Italian dishes I had parsley and some kind of a mix for Italian dishes. That was so long ago.

The 4-H Lady used to visit my classroom. She encouraged me to do a soil sample. You can still get your soil profile from the 4-H. I think she was the extension officer.This was at Ashlawn. She was like a co-teacher and frequently dropped in to share lots of things.

A parent, Coach Haithcock, brought his tractor and turned over the soil for me. I didn't ask, he sort of suggested it to me.I don't remember the mother who taught me how to harden the plants, and who guided the children and I through the planting.
We loved the experience. Kolrabi? Who ever heard of that and early carrots. Early lettuce. Spring peas. We also had strawberries. We would return from the garden with strawberry stained faces.. so good.

The children had tools and no one got hurt.
We used the ESS science kit to think about what is a seed. Tasty explorations.

The Virginia Extension Service , 4-H helped us with resources and so did parents. In the spring we had a garden, butterfies, a worm garden and sometimes frogs to learn the life cycles. We also hatched chickens, or ducks, or both.
Garden resources from 4H here.

We collected seeds. We did still lifes and then ate the things we were drawing. I don't remember how much we cooked but we did. Twenty Bean Soup . We read books about food and recipes. Of course we read "Stone Soup". Some book with idiomatic expressions from food was a big hit too. We learned what the favorite food was of each student and parent involved.

Parental Help , Chefs, Sou Chefs and Cookbook Designers

Thomas DiBaggion was of Italian descent and was fascinated by basil and other herbs. He came into the classroom and did an herb lesson and brought us plants to grow bigger. Each child did research on an herb and we created a fact wall. We tried to make sealed jars to capture the flavor of herbs using oil we did a fair job.

Another mother made homemade pasta and we made the sauce or sometimes we made gnocchi. We had pots and pans and a double burner and soap and kitchen organizer charts.

We would cook on Friday, the great smells wafting along the school corridors.
Gene Posati taught us some Italian recipes. He was a great cook should I say he was also the counselor?. Tom De Baggio the father who helped us with the herbs made great salads. His son now has the business out further in Virginia. Just reading the catalogue will make you herb smart.

DeBaggio's Herb Farm and Nursery. Since 1975. The Northern Virginia source for high quality plants. They specialize in herbs, vegetables, perennials, and annuals.

The Smithsonian helped us out with the Seeds of Change Garden project, here.

Work on an educational garden begins long before the first seed catalogs are ordered. The success of the garden necessitates setting its goals, enlisting the cooperation of the school's faculty and maintenance staff, establishing a core group of gardening volunteers, outlining steps in establishing the garden, selecting and understanding the limitations of the gardening site, and identifying sources of funding.

Setting Goals
The educational garden is a means of exploring a range of ideas inside and outside the elementary school curriculum. The garden can be integrated into one subject area, such as science, or it can be interdisciplinary, incorporating, for example, science, art, language arts, and music. The project can be limited to one grade, or it can be an opportunity for cooperative learning among several grades. An interdisciplinary, inter-grade approach maximizes the garden's influence, but these goals can be met gradually, over several years of gardening experience. Be sure the goals of the garden complement the needs of the school community.

Enlisting Support

Once you have established clear goals for the garden, obtain the support of the head of the school for the project in order to obtain access to staff, facilities, and a network within the wider community. You also need the support of key staff at the school, including heads of faculties whose disciplines will be touched by the project as well as the maintenance staff.
Support means not only a verbal commitment to the garden, but also a formal allotment of time during the school day or week. You could call this time EARTH, or the 'Environmental Activities and Research Theme Hour.'

A Garden Angel

Every garden needs an angel--one person at the school ( a teacher or a parent) who can invest the large amount of time needed to keep the garden going. In addition, every garden needs a core group of helpers who can be relied upon to roll up their sleeves whenever necessary. At the same time, however, everyone in the school should feel ownership in the garden--both its work and its rewards. Children in particular have a sense of caring for and sharing in all that Nature gives.
Encourage flexibility from everyone working on the garden. The project will change as it grows: rigid preconceived ideas will inevitably lead to frustration and loss of team spirit.

Implementing the GardenThe more the school and volunteers understand the steps in creating and maintaining the educational garden, the easier it will be to sustain enthusiasm for the project.
The best garden helpers were the ones who kept the garden during the summer.I was always surprised at the dedication of parents to keep the gardens going through our long hot , humid summers.

Home - My Mother's Garden

My mother always had a small garden. When I was a child she had a victory garden. I don't remember it , but her picture in front of her corn looks at me from pages of an album. She was very proud of it. It was so good the other neighbors were jealous. I have no idea what was in it. We just have the photo.

I don't know if I ever ate a lot of foods that were just from the grocery stores. My family owned farms in Dinwiddie County, Va and cousins coming back and forth, brought truck gardening products, tomatoes, corn, string beans, lima beans, peas , eggplants, sometimes squash and other varieties of plants. My mother believed in putting summer in a jar. I personally hated it. I had to stand by the steaming kettles and help her cut and bottle the summer products. My jobs were to cut the corn off the cob, to make watermelon pickle, and to snap the beans.

I did love the pickled watermelon, and the peaches with cloves as they disappeared from the shelves I got sad. But I was eating them. I don't know why I never canned or bottled on my own. My mother made the Brunswick Stew without the meat so you could just open the jars and put the chicken in the pan. That was her contribution to fast food..

It might have been because I got sent to the country during the time they started harvesting everything. Except for having a salt shaker in my pocket for eating sun ripe tomatoes, and thumping watermelons at night I was miserable. What I don't remember is if it rained. I guess it did. How else could the plants survive?

There was little entertainment in the country. There were snakes. There were cows we had to bring back from the pasture and I used to like to walk barefoot. Not a good thing to do if you don't pay attention while walking behind a cow. But we were usually tired from chores anyway. Some cicadas, lighting bugs ,.. inch worms, doodle bugs.

The creek had 5 inches of water it seemed , and we drank water out of a well. I won't mention the outhouse. I would wait and wait and wait until I just had to go to the bathroom. YuK!!

One great thing was the fried chicken my aunt cooked from the chickens in the yard and I truly don't remember much else. She would wring their necks and pour boiling water over them and cut them up and cook them. My cousin made hot rolls for lunch which was a big hit the whole family enjoyed.

Flies, Arrowheads, and Cow Patties ( Poop)

Well ok, homemade ice cream pound cake, did I mention tomatoes? I know, I know I did.
In the country there was no store. Not a lot of sweets.

I hated the country. There was nothing to do but look at the stars at night. My cousin listened to country music. They did not have a TV. They had a smokehouse, and I don't remember if they had a refrigerator. Some things were kept cool in the well and I think there was an icehouse.

The farm had tobacco, corn, beans, tomatoes, okra, greens of all sorts, peanuts( major crop) melons and watermelons which myAunt and Uncle sold in town on Saturday. We got to go visit and go to a store on Saturdays with another Aunt. But we also had to shell a ton of butterbeans for the market. That was a little bit of fun because we made shapes of the shelled butterbeans.

My mother and ladies of her generation exchanged plants and rooted stems. I have no idea how. They had gardens you could just about tell the seasons by the rotation of flowers. My mother as a florist had 27 kinds of azealeas , lots of bulbs and lilies and hostas but also a collection of plants for medicine.

Summer in a Jar and Pantries...

Summer in a Jar got me to the Lakes in Italy to do a project that was life changing. Italy,How can I explain? The title of the event was , "You are What you Eat!!" In Italian It was the best conference I ever attended. We stopped in Milan and drove to the lakes.

The first event was cheeses and other foods at a lunch. I remember laughing and saying that I never would eat so much cheese. Hours later, I am ashamed to say that I tasted every cheese in the place and some twice. It might have been the wine too. Italy is like that. The event was an awareness event and I was working with filmmakers. That was just the first of many edible adventures throughout the conference. I had never been to Italy before that visit. I stayed a week longer than the conference. It was like being in food heaven. It was a film festival with some lectures. It was the most food I ever ate in a series of days. It was all good. There were people there who hated Americans because of McDonalds, and Coca Cola. They served wine.

Learning that chefs catered lunch in the schools in Rome and that the children had lots of selections? Interesting.I was not so impressed with the fish from the lakes as I was with the pastas and the market foods.

We also talked about anoxeria, but it was a topic that had artistic compliments to it.

My presentation was about the Accidental Science of Cooking,

That means I used the movies, but I entitled it. Summer in a Jar and used international recipes to explain why people eat what they eat, based on lots of factors. I had fun with this.

Seasonings, Sauces , Savory Things

We eat because we need food, but we cook because we love food. That love is fueled by the tangy heat of spices and nurtured by the flowery aroma of herbs. Seasonings play a minimal nutritional role in our diet. They play to our senses. They make us want another bite.
The movies I used were fascinating, but had I used the title , they would never have selected my presentation. It was the story of pantry and preserves, and herbs and how they were used to keep summer.

Before I was married and after I had worked in Greece.
While working in Greece I learned, remembered that it was great when things tasted as good as they looked. The fruits were small but tasty , you ate what was there until there was no more.
You ate things in season. If you went to the store and you saw something you bought it because there was no guarantee that it would be there on the next day. I had to learn that and food Greek.

There was when I rediscovered fish. My mother had friends who came in from distant parts of Virginia to sell fish too, this was a regular event.
When I moved out on my own, I lost that connection. I also lost my taste for fish because the fish was NOT fresh. I mention Greece and the fish because when you went to the store in Greece you gor what was there because the best was available. In a dining place they brought the fish to you to examine before they cooked it. In Tunisia, I fell in love again with fresh fish.

Everything was not there all the time. We fished in the creek. They fished in the creek. I looked out for snakes. My aunt even BAKED fish. Who had ever heard of that! With Herbs? She stuffed a bluefish with crabmeat and herbs. It was good.
The Greek fish and the fish in Tunisia were so wonderful I ate fish almost all of the time whether or not I knew what kind of fish it was.


I am from Virginia. My ancestors were Native Americans and Blacks. My grandmother, I am named for her, had talent with plants and had a medicine garden. Oh yoyo.. my mother made her medicines too. Who knew that most medicines came from barefoot doctors. Pine tar on sugar will surely clear a bad throat, and peppermint oil in water helps with digestion. I don't really remember most of the medicines except the spring tonic, asafetida,
and lavender.

When I was teaching, I took a course that showed me the herb garden, the kitchen garden and one that was like a utility garden.
Before the Internet there were posters of herbs, fruits, potatoes , various kinds of food. It made for a pretty room. Herbs in the window, and posters on the wall. The art teacher taught us to make faux paper mache and clay fruits. We made a cookbook of recipes from families. I did that experience every year in some schools.
In Orange Virginia there was a cook called Edna Lewis. She was supposed to be the best cook. Well, her recipes were like my mother's except I don't remember eating quail. My mother cooked squab .

I laughed out loud when they talked about making candles and soap and brooms. My mother didn't think it was funny. My bad.
She said she made her own brooms. ( I was thinking , what was she a witch?) Later while living in Germany I had to reconsider everything. Everything. Mis Calley next door made her own soap in town. We thought how strange. How weird. She used plants from her kitchen garden and she made brooms from broom corn. So when I went to Illinois, I saw broom corn.

I could write more about colonial gardening, kitchen gardens and medicine gardens. That will be another day.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation

I love planting bulbs in the fall. Children often don't get to do so in school because we are so busy at the beginning of the school year we don't get the bulb garden started. I look in the expensive catalogs, like White Flower Farm and even Breck's which is a lot less expensive. Then I go to
a place where there are bulbs that are relatively inexpensive.

The history of bulbs is interesting. You would be surprised to know how plants got distributed all around the world. The first prized tulip bulbs were cooked and eaten by hungry sailors who were starving on their way home from a long world voyage...

I live near the Botanical gardens in Washington DC. And I am so happy today to have gone to the mums,Chrysanthemum show. If you have a chance to visit a large botanical garden with a class, it would be a great thing. You can also do the links with the exploratorium.

My mother was a florist, she probably never met an azalea she did not like. She planted them all around in our school garden. We put the bulbs in between. There are florists and garden centers that partner with kids to do gardens. In some cities there is a beautifying project to go green and so containers and roof top gardens are sponsored by the city. Look for these ideas in the city papers.


Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation

Exploratorium Science of Gardening: Three Ways to Make a ...
... of genetics have used this forced breeding to bring out plant traits that are
useful for humans. They then save the seeds from the plants they like best ...
[ More results from ]
Microscope Imaging Station. Gallery.
... Plants. Plants have complex cells filled with organelles such as a nucleus,
mitochondria, and other structures common to eukaryotes. Some plant ...
Inside a Pitcher Plant from Accidental Scientist: Science of ...
... He also cuts open a plant to find the insects trapped within and to show
"what ravenous, gluttonous pigs these plants can be.". ...

Alice Kingston - 54070's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm surprised about you say here. Kids today have no idea about how a flower seed looks like. They are more interested in computer games and how blow up more enemies. Please tell me how you motivate them.

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