NEWPORT — Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) is working with 15 schools in the Northeast Kingdom to provide meaningful STEM learning opportunities in the outdoors this school year.
“Outdoor classrooms” have become increasingly popular this year, as teachers take their students outdoors as much as possible — teaching outside with pop-up tents, picnic tables, blankets and chairs — all in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in their schools. Farm-to-School, an established program from GMFTS offered at many NEK schools for over a decade, enhances this outdoor learning experience with hands-on, experiential activities in school gardens, and is helping teachers adapt to new methods of teaching.
On a sunny mid-September day, Farm-to-School Coordinator Maisie Anrod brought GMFTS’s apple press to Jay Westfield Elementary School, where rotating groups of class “pods” came out throughout the school day to pick apples from their school’s two apple trees in the front yard, grind up the apples, and press them into cider. They followed it up with a taste test comparing two different apple varieties and drew their favorite types of apples and apple recipes on a large poster board (apple pie was a fan favorite). Afterwards, they were able to harvest some fresh crops from the garden: kale, Swiss chard, carrots and sunchokes.
Maisie said, “it is so fun to watch the kids go through the entire process of making a popular seasonal treat — from tree, to apple press, to cider — they did it all!” Maisie gave the cider pressed by the students to Jay Westfield’s Food Service Director Helen Before, who will heat up the batch to pasteurize it and serve it to students.