Vergennes students learn about local foods

VERGENNES — With the help and direction of a Farm to School Team and a Farm to School Planning Grant, the entire 8th grade team at Vergennes Union Middle School, Team Phoenix, is engaged in a six-week local foods unit.
Team Phoenix with the help of their teachers and staff members from the Willowell Foundation beginning in early October embarked on an interdisciplinary experience learning about food systems — local and national.
In language arts class, students are reading and discussing one of two books: “Chew On This” by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson or the young reader’s edition of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. In social studies class, students are studying maps and will design and construct a map of Vermont with an Addison County inset highlighting local farms, food producers and school gardens.
To kick off the local foods unit Team Phoenix visited the school’s off-site garden, the Walden Garden at the Willowell land in Monkton. During the Oct. 8 field trip, around 80 students participated in harvesting, sensory activities, team-building exercises and tasting foods from the garden.
Willowell’s farm managers, AmeriCorps members, staff, and four Middlebury College volunteers welcomed the students and helped them make sauerkraut and participate in art projects and games — all related to the farm and local foods.
Educators said the food studies unit is filled with other activities, such as visits to the classrooms by farmers and food producers, food-themed art work for the cafeteria, and small group studies of individual producers with possible field trips to related sites.
The students will celebrate local foods at the end of the unit with a school-wide “Local Luncheon” in November. Menu items for the luncheon will highlight produce harvested by the students during the visit to the Walden Garden. 

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