A food education student shows seeds planted the previous week sprouting into leaves in their seedlings cup.

As I sat in the school hallway awaiting a first-grade class to return from lunch for their food education class, I heard the patter of small feet quicken near me and a booming, proud voice announce, “Ms. Missy, Ms. Missy, I
have seeds!”

Plant Food, Educate Kids: A Story from a Food Educator

Last week, we had spent time gingerly planting seeds together and had carefully placed each cucumber seed in a cup to be nurtured by these young caretakers. Instructions to remember if you’re thinking about gardening with kids and decide to plant seedlings at home: place the plastic-covered cups with your seeds near the window, mist seedlings five or six times every few days, and remove the plastic-wrap covering when the magic sprouting begins. Add a touch of love, then wait, watch, and wonder!

My young, hallway friend slowly opened his palm and revealed a small wadded-up piece of paper napkin, which he held like the most valuable of treasures. Without speaking, the treasure was slowly unwrapped and from the wad, eight tiny bell pepper seeds tumbled into his hand. Smiling, our eyes locked, as if we shared the best of unspoken secrets: the bell pepper seeds had been saved from slices served at lunch. Aha! I now understood: “I have seeds.”

Last week, before the classroom planting began, I had cut open a bell pepper, revealing its mysterious insides to the students. We guessed: were there ten, fifty, a hundred, or even more seeds? The students learned how each seed could produce a plant, which could produce a multitude of peppers, which could individually reveal its future promise and potential to grow.

The Impact of Gardening for Kids

As I entered today’s classroom and we gathered to sit in our conversation circle, excitement was in the air about the growing plants (from our seeds planted last week). Our cucumber seedlings had sprouted, each growing new leaves and bending toward the light. As this day’s lesson unfolded, students dug deeper as they role-played the patterns of the sun, designed their own imaginative gardens in their journals, and tasted a quick cucumber pickle dish we made together in class.

As I packed up at the end of the lesson, little hands were still raised and a barrage of questions chased me to the door. “How tall will our plants grow?” “How big will the cucumbers get?” “What will we do next week?” As I turned to look back, gazing over this ever-growing sea of curiosity, I waved my goodbyes until next week and thought to myself: “I have seeds!”

Midwest Food Connection teaches food education in classrooms across the Twin Cities and beyond. We help students build relationships with their food, and understand how their food choices connect to their environment and community. Through exploring new foods, healthy cooking, and gardening, kids get excited about learning how to nurture their bodies and the environment. 

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