Sustainable living course proposed for Middlebrook (updated)

Sustainable Living: Garden to Table — a new course in sustainable living through gardening and food preparation — may be added to Middlebrook’s course offerings for sixth graders next school year.
If approved by the Board of Education, the course would provide students the necessary skills to “empower them to tackle life’s challenges and embrace a lifestyle that is sustainable and enriching to the community and the environment,” according to the course proposal by culinary arts teacher Heather Priest and sixth grade social studies teacher Will Mathews.
Priest and Mathews proposed the course to the Board of Education’s Teaching and Learning Committee on March 12, and shared it with the entire education board during its March 26 meeting.
“We’re calling it a sustainable living program because students are going to be gardening so they understand where the food comes from,” Priest told The Bulletin.
“We’re probably going to be doing half gardening, half cooking, so it’s going to be a little bit more than just taking food from a farm and cooking it. They’re going to be testing the soil, composting — all that kind of stuff.”

Needed skills

Sustainable Living: Garden to Table would replace the current sixth grade sewing and textiles course, which sixth graders are required to take as part of Middlebrook’s family and consumer science program.
“Currently, seventh and eighth graders do culinary and sixth graders do sewing, but through the community and the kids talking with their parents,” Priest told The Bulletin, “it seemed that students and families were a little more interested in the food aspect rather than the sewing aspect.”
Priest said the concept of the course “comes from the standpoint of a need for skill.”
“When students are moving out into the real world, learning how to use a sewing machine isn’t necessarily one of those critical skills that it used to be,” she said.
“There is, however, going to be a huge economic boom of people trying to figure out how we’re going to feed the world’s population and how we’re going to take care of our soil and not poison ourselves with antibiotics, hormones and chemicals.”
Not only will the new course provide “a foundation for the seventh and eighth grade cooking classes,” said Priest, but it could also lead to students’ participation in the high school’s culinary arts electives and gardening program.

Learning experiences

The new course, which would promote global awareness, is designed to “plant the seed for a healthier generation that will take better care of the environment.”
Each sixth grader would take the 22 sessions of the course for one quarter. The “hands-on, project-based” curriculum would include multiple learning modalities, including the utilization of technology, to teach students:

  • Gardening basics and tools;

  • The science behind gardening;

  • Kitchen safety and sanitation;

  • Food exploration, including comparative tastings;

  • Composting and environmental awareness;

  • Fruits and vegetables and the benefits of garden-to-table;

  • Snack preparation with the use of wholesome foods grown in Middlebrook’s garden.

Students would also participate in “research and practical planting methods, evaluate the science behind composting and create new recipes” with the harvest of Middlebrook’s garden.
“We already have four raised beds in one of our courtyards, where we planted vegetables last fall and were able to harvest throughout the year — up until December, we were able to get kale,” Priest said. “In the works, we have eight more beds planned with about 25 more crops.”


According to the course proposal, the current budget for Middlebrook’s sewing and textiles course would be diverted toward the new sustainable living course.
The only additional costs would be for the eight new garden beds and $1,762.56 in developmental funds to pay two staff members to align and map the curriculum over the summer.

Correction: April 20 — In the April 16 issue of The Bulletin, it was incorrectly reported that the Board of Education had approved a Sustainable Living: Garden to Table course for Middlebrook School during its March 26 meeting. The course was only reviewed by the board and has yet to be voted on.