When the bell rings on Friday afternoons, Cedar Brook Elementary teachers Hortencia Flores and Esmeralda Warshaw, Golden Whisk Teachers of the Year, are not packing up and heading home for the weekend. Instead, they are preparing to teach in the garden and kitchen with an eager group of students. Ms. Flores, who is a first grade bilingual teacher, and Ms. Warshaw, a kindergarten bilingual teacher, were instrumental in bringing Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ to Cedar Brook.
Two years ago, when Principal Jeffrey Post asked his administration "about levels of interest in the Recipe for Success program, both Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores jumped at the opportunity to partner with and lead something as wonderful for kids as Recipe for Success." Especially rewarding for both teachers is that many 3rd and 4th grade participants were their former students, resulting in a unique bond between the teachers and the students as they explore a new and exciting curriculum. Parent volunteer Rachel Stinson says that Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores are "the heart and soul of this program," and in a challenging environment of budget cuts, dwindling after-school programs, and time constraints, they have made it their mission to have a Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ program at Cedar Brook.
Ms. Warshaw was originally drawn to the program after hearing about its benefits, and after her first year teaching the curriculum, she was inspired by the "wonderful opportunity for all students to explore, discover and apply academic and social skills in real life experiences, making the learning relevant and meaningful to them." She has seen firsthand how the students are applying their knowledge and skills in the garden and kitchen, and she is committed to encouraging them along the way. Most rewarding for Ms. Flores is seeing her students "respond to the challenge of trying new vegetables and foods and their level of involvement in the whole process of the Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ program. From the learning of new concepts to the hands-on experiences in the kitchen and garden, they zoom and boom like busy bees. They really look like little busy chefs!"
With the help of Rachel Stinson and another parent volunteer, Jacinda Woloson, Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores are embarking on their second year of the program and are excited to see how it further impacts the students and the school. With the teachers' encouragement, the students have decorated the lunchroom with banners and pictures showcasing their activities. The signs have not only generated interest in the program, but also the students have become well known to their peers, and they are frequently asked questions about the curriculum and the exciting skills they are developing.
Ms. Woloson added that the teachers have integrated their heritage and an understanding of cultural differences into the class and curriculum, and they have instilled trust in and boosted the confidence of the students. And it is not just the students who have excelled and grown from the program; Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores have both developed new skills in their teaching repertoire and have gained new food and nutrition perspective.
With the fun and informative environment these two teachers have created for the Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ students, there is a lot more growing at Cedar Brook than just the vegetables in the garden!