The professor and young Veggie Schoolers discuss how veggies differ in the parts we eat,
be it roots, fruits, buds, stalks, bulbs, tubers or leaves.
Thursday morning the Veggie School conducted 3 classes, each customized a bit to different age groups, as part of the Parks and Recreation Department's science and nature summer curriculum.
The K thru 2nd kids played Name and Find. One by one, they identified the different veggies displayed on the white banners, voted on which were their favorites, then scoured the garden to find the actual plants themselves. (Amazingly, due to the watchful care of the counselors, no plants were damaged during this exercise.)
We then talked a bit about how veggies progress through a life cycle, starting with seeds; then on to roots, stocks, and leaves; then buds, flowers and fruits; then, finally, seeds. We talked about how gardeners harvest different veggies at different stages in these life cycles, because we eat different parts of different veggies, and these different parts taste best at different stages in different plants' life cycles. (Lots of differences to learn there!)
The 3rd and 4th grade group zipped through the Name and Find exercise. That gave us time, after talking about life cycles and the parts of plants we eat, to get into garden bugs. According to the professor, we shouldn't think of bugs as either all good or all bad. They're sort of like brothers and sisters: sometimes they're good, and we like them; but sometimes they're bad, and they bug us. The best thing to do with bugs, he said, is to try to keep in check the most troublesome things they try to get away with (as best we can), but otherwise, to try to learn how to live with them. Bugs, by the way, are birds' most important source of protein. No more bugs, then probably no more birds.
The 5th and 6th graders skipped the Name and Find exercise altogether. We talked about life cycles, parts of the plant, bugs, a few histories of the students' favorite veggies, and — for many, the highlight of the class — the magic of photosynthesis. We walked through the mechanics, using painted wood models of the processes' input and output molecules, then discussed the critical reciprocity between plants and animals, the carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange that literally sustains most life here on earth.
Students in every group took with them a card with the Veggie School's web address, so they could continue further study (if they wanted) when they returned to their homes.