Summer is here, school is out, and my team and I are gearing up for the start of Camp Fresh Roots. (We still have a few spaces left for this summer – come play with us!) And so the time has come to wrap up the Fresh Five. It has been a labour of love to create and curate these resources over the past 12 weeks in this time of uncertainty. I hope you and your family have been able to use these activities to connect to each other, the world that surrounds you, and the food that nourishes you.
For this, our final week of this version of the Fresh Five, I’m collecting all the Fresh Roots activities, field guides, and recipes so you can revisit your favorites, or find ones you may have missed the first time around.
Flowers are beautiful, but did you know they can be delicious, too? Our Edible Flower Field Guide will help you identify some of the many tasty, colourful flowers you might find in your neighbourhood. It includes sustainable foraging guidelines, and an Edible Flower Bingo card you can bring with you as you go looking for treats. Please forage responsibly!
Native Plants in Vancouver
You don’t have to get out of the city of find native plant species! Douglas-Firs, Western Red Cedar, Salal, Sword Ferns, Bleeding Heart, and so many more are beloved plant members of our communities. This Field Guide to Native Plants will help you identify some of the many native species in our parks, yards, and school grounds. Plus, there’s a Bingo sheet to make your next walk even more fun!
One of our most popular classroom workshops is Super Seeds! And now you can try it for yourself! We’ve adapted our workshop curriculum to be done at your kitchen table, with just things you probably have on hand. If you have or can find Lima beans, I recommend them for this, as they are both very large (so it’s easy to see what’s in them), and the skins are relatively thin, so they are easy to peel.
Food and Farmworkers
I’m a podcast person. I have about 30 different podcasts that update regularly in my feed, on topics from food to mythology to history to linguistics. So when I heard a recent episode of the US-based economics podcast Planet Money about how COVID-19 is impacting American farmworkers, I wanted to share it. This is a complex topic, touching on issues of food security, labour rights (or lack thereof), public health, and yes, econ. It’s sure to spark discussions, so we’ve made a bit of framing for it. I recommend listening to your older student and discussing it together. (And in case you’re wondering, Fresh Roots farmworkers are mostly local university students, and pay starts at $15.50/hour.)
Signs of Spring-O Neighbourhood Bingo
Are your kids (and, let’s be honest, you) getting tired of walking around the same 5 blocks over and over again as you try to get some fresh air and gentle exercise during these days of physical distancing? Print out this Neighbourhood Bingo sheet! Look at your local environment in a whole new way as you notice how spring is blooming all around us.
Explore Your Spring Traditions
At Fresh Roots, we think everyone should have healthy food, land, and communities, and one of the ways we strengthen our communities is through traditions! Whether your spring celebrations centre around a religious holiday, a natural phenomenon, or a special calendar date, talking to your elders about where those traditions come from is a great way to build relationships. Not spring anymore? You can do this same activity for other celebration seasons!
Make Veggie Art
If you have some fruits or veggies that have been in the fridge just a little too long, Veggie Printing is a fun way to repurpose them! Not only is it a good thing to do with that limp celery, a potato that’s started growing, or the bits of your veg that aren’t going to make it into soup, it’s also a great way for kids to play with their food. When kids are encouraged to use all their senses to get to explore a carrot or asparagus in a stress-free way, they can develop a greater appreciation for them, which in turn makes them more likely to eat those vegetables!
Touch A Mystery Veggie
Nothing is more exciting than reaching into a box, bag, or jar to feel what’s inside! It turns and ordinary turnip or pepper into a mystery to solve. This lesson is one of our all-time favourites, in part because of the mystery and in part because it’s so flexible. No veggies? Use fruits, or leaves from outside, or even kitchen utensils! Use what you’ve got! For younger kids, just reaching in and guessing which of a few different options is in the box is great. For older kids, they can use this as a way to really connect with a plant they are growing or studying in a fun way. Exploring through one sense at a time is a great mindfulness activity, too.
Tree rings are important tools for scientists studying global climate change, both to document a history of climate over thousands of years and to help us understand the changes happening around us today. This activity for older students uses two videos to explore what dendroclimatology is and how the stories told by trees are shaping our knowledge of climate, touching on not only science and technology, but geography, industry, and careers as well.
Dissect a Stem
One of the many important things a stem does is carry water from the roots to the rest of the plant. Inside the stem are structures called xylem which provides a path for water, and the nutrients it carries, to help flowers bloom, make fruits juicy, and give leaves the water they need to make sugar through photosynthesis. Sugars from the leaves flow down the phloem that surrounds the xylem. In the stem of a celery plant, the xylem is big enough that we can see them easily with just a couple of kitchen tools.
You can try this with other stems, too. I had some success with asparagus, and I suspect bok choi would work really well, too. Experiment with the stems you have in your veggie drawer!
Make an Ecosystem Web
Fresh Roots grown (mainly) vegetables on our schoolyard farms. Our farmers plant rows of peas, squash, chard, lettuce, parsley, and more. We can grow nearly 100 different varieties of plants in a single season! That might sound like a lot of biodiversity, but plants and farmers are just a small part of the whole biological picture. Discover how everything from crows to fungus to the air around us contributes to the biodiversity of our farm. We do versions of this activity with kids as young as 8 all the way through adults. (Hint – making the web is only the start of the discussion!)
Make it Rise!
Wondering why you have to let regular bread dough rise, but you can whip up banana bread and pop it in the over right away? Curious where the holes in your bread come from? What’s the difference between baking powder and baking soda anyway? Looking for an alternate way to blow up balloons for your next party? Check out this activity and learn the secrets of leavening! This one is great for kids as young as kindergarten, and there’s an extension for older kids who really want to get scientific.
Make a Plant Friend
This activity is a chance to slow down and really connect with a plant in a different way than we normally do. We often think about what a plant is called, or how it’s useful to us. That can often lead to a very one-sided relationship with plants – they give, and we take. But by making a close connection with one particular plant, we can become more in tune with what it needs and what we can give back. Plus, it’s a great excuse to hug a tree, and trees are great huggers! And don’t miss the video made by Cara at our site at Suwa’lkh School in Coquitlam.
Meet Your Local Pollinators
What do pollinators need to survive? And what pollinators live in your neighbourhood? Check out this activity for all ages to learn some pollinator facts. Then, take what you’ve learned out into your neighbourhood to see which pollinators can make a happy home near you!
I hope you enjoyed cooking and eating all those delicious recipes as much as I enjoyed creating them. With local summer produce coming into full force, it’s a great time to revisit some of those recipes with new fruits and veggies. And to make it easy for you to find your favourites, we’ve put them all into a recipe book. Happy cooking!
With love and a fistful of sunshine,