COLUMBIA — The corridor on the third floor of Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School had a vague hint of garlic in the air Monday afternoon.
A group of third-graders had just finished making garlic toast and eating the handmade snacks at a school event called “Harvest-of-the-Month.”
Whitney Adams, a classroom teacher, said the monthly event in partnership with Slow Food Katy Trail is to show students the importance of eating healthily.
“The program helps the children to learn about the opposite of fast and unhealthy food, which is slow food,” she said. “We want to help them build relationships with natural food, which a lot of the other kids don’t have today.”
Garlic is the food of the month in October. In addition to creating garlic-themed artwork and cooking with it, third-graders also planted their own bulbs under the guidance of a local farmer.
Slow Food Katy Trail is part of the worldwide movement that promotes the sustainable production of quality food.
Lee School has partnered with Slow Food for three years. Each month a new product in season is introduced to the students through cooking, art, working with local farmers and other activities.
“We want to let the children know that there are options other than shopping at grocery stores and eating out of a can,” Adams said.
In the art classroom, the students create projects with watercolor, crayons and natural textures.
Some third-graders used white tissue paper to make “garlic skin,” while other students such as Ellie Carver-Horner dipped spoons into bowls of sand and sprinkled it on the drawings to create a three-dimensional effect.
The 8-year-old carefully swiped her garlic drawing with glue and pressed the sand firmly with her spoon to make sure it adhered to her work.
“I think this is really fun because it involves food,”Allie said with a broad grin on her face.
Later, the third-graders surrounded local farmer Liz Graznak in a garden behind the school and listened to her instructions on how to plant garlic correctly.
“Your garlic will be ready to be harvested in the summer," she told the group. "And next fall, you’ll be able to make pizza with it.”
Graznak passed the garlic in her hand to one of the students and asked him to peel off the skin and pull apart the cloves.
“They will grow through the winter and turn into this big head of garlic,” she said, pointing at the cloves that the boy held.
To plant the bulbs, the third-graders slowly separated the cloves of garlic, laid them into predug holes and patted the soil around them.
“Don’t fling the dirt too far,” Graznak reminded the children.
“The last thing you have to do is to put your garlic to bed, so it can stay warm to grow in the winter,” she said.
The students cradled their portions of straw, taking turns gently laying them on the planting bed.
Graznak told them to protect the garden and keep others from disturbing it.
“I got into it in graduate school and thought it was really great that I could grow the produce and provide it to others,” she said. “I never knew I could make a profit.”
Graznak said a parent asked her to teach the farming workshop and provide an interactive learning experience.
“I think this is a great program because we talked about the life cycle of plants, and that’s exactly what they’re learning in class right now,” she said. “It’s very hands-on — the outside-of-the-classroom learning.”