Okay, I admit it, I’m a bit of a task-master. But really, how else could we get done everything that needs to get done? Our children’s garden is a generous size (approximately 100′ x 100′), and we also tend a tea garden, the school garden, a small herb garden for our super Chef Mark, and a few other assorted areas throughout the Brewster campus. And by saying “we” I mean the students, with a bit of help from me, my teaching assistant (the amazing Ms. B), two seasonal interns and wonderful volunteers.
There are times when enthusiasm is less than spectacular and I need to bring a class outside the garden gate to direct their attention to the sign hanging over the entrance, “Children’s Garden.” The garden got it’s name because it’s almost exclusively tended to by the children of Green Chimneys. Gentle reminders never hurt…
However, after a year plus of pushing us forward, season after season, project after project, crop after crop, I thought it’s finally time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Thus, Salsa Week came into existence. Is making garden salsa a bold stroke of originality? Of course not, but sometimes shifting gears brings results we never expected, and this project afforded us two huge benefits.
On a social-emotional note, it allowed us to get to know some of our newer students and check in with returning ones. Having the luxury of sitting together around a picnic table on a warm, sunny, fall day, preparing food straight from our garden as a group, chat, laugh and enjoy a snack together was priceless.
But honestly, the big bonus of making salsa was the focus to task we witnessed when prepping veggies for our special dish. Students who sometimes seem to have two left feet were chopping and dicing with the agility of an Iron Chef (with the equivalent of a butter knife, no less). Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences is definitely at play; meaning we all have our own way of learning and how we approach things. The hardest job a teacher has, especially at a special education school, is discerning learning styles and figuring out how to best reach her students. Each one is so unique! It is often the hidden curriculum that helps to reveal strengths and learning styles within our students. On the surface, the objective to Salsa Week was to learn how to make salsa and get the kids to see the full cycle of “seed to table.” But on a deeper level, we were not only able to connect with each other in a positive group atmosphere while team-building, but learning styles emerged, teaching this teacher how to tailor information and teaching style to her newer students and their diverse needs.