Fifth Grade science grows to include gardening, cooking

Over the span of one semester, fifth grade science students have watched the fruits of their labor grow and flourish into a delicious unit on the farm to table concept.

The food science unit included 14 different lessons – seven spent tending the school’s organic garden and seven cooking made-from-scratch dishes in the dining commons. The unit was led by Joel and Lenora Sansbury, owners of Spartanburg Day School’s food service provider, the Griffins Table.

“We’re trying to teach them farm to table practices from start to finish,” Lenora Sansbury explained. “It creates a healthier lifestyle as they continue to learn and grow. These are skills they will use for the rest of their lives.”

While in the garden with Joel, fifth graders have watched their food grow from seed to harvest. They talk about plant anatomy and structure, learn about pollinators (including the honeybees buzzing in the hives nearby), weed and turn the 17 raised beds, harvest the crops and maintain the garden using 100 percent organic practices. Students harvested sweet potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, eggplant, radishes, squash, zucchini and a variety of peppers. For their culminating project, students will design their own companion planting garden, and one design will be selected for the spring garden.

In the dining commons and kitchen with Lenora Sansbury, students learned knife skills, basic measurements and how to read and write a recipe. Lessons included making a pasta salad using garden-fresh ingredients and creating their own herb sea salt while learning about the difference in fresh and dried herbs and spices. Working in groups, students will eventually create their own one-pot meal using all the skills they’ve learned.

“Gardening is a science, and cooking is an art,” said fifth grader Arie Kate Davis. “Both are fun and important.”

Student Rutledge Wall said, “I think that having cooking and gardening is great because later in my life it will be very helpful.”

Head of Middle School Farrar Richardson said the unit has been so successful, she is looking at ways to expand the concept to other grades.

“We are thrilled that our fifth graders are able to make these connections in this extremely hands-on way,” she said. “It’s a very special opportunity.”