Hands-on learning at Elwood Primary School

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

This month, we had the unique opportunity to gather our 13 Healthy Kids Advisors in metro Melbourne. Our Advisors are usually spread out across Victoria working with mostly regional communities to boost access to healthy food and drink options in the places where families and children gather.

With everyone together, we jumped at the chance to showcase one of our most established Kitchen Garden Program members — Elwood Primary School. The school’s thriving garden space is matched by an impressive, inviting kitchen where students in Grades 3 and 4 experience first-hand the links between growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal produce.

Elwood’s kitchen garden program has been running for 16 years and is a key driver in the ethos of the school. The program helps facilitate strong community links with the school’s network of parents, grandparents and neighbours who volunteer in both kitchen and garden sessions.

This time around, it was our talented Advisors who got to help out in the kitchen and garden, learning from young chefs and budding sustainability champions.

A kitchen cook-off

At 9 am a line of students started to form outside the kitchen entrance. The excitement was evident as each student washed up and tied on their aprons. Sam, one of two kitchen specialists at the school, led the session by explaining the four recipes the students would be creating: Potato and Rosemary Pizza, Carrot Top Pesto Pasta, Silverbeet Slice and an Indonesian Pumpkin Coconut Steamed Cake. It seemed ambitious, but the students were ready for action!

All the fresh ingredients were harvested from the school garden, while eggs were gathered from their much-loved chickens. Sam walked the children through each of the vegetables and herbs, freshly picked and washed, and described the dishes they’d be creating.

Elwood Primary School's potato and rosemary pizza.

The class was split into four groups, with a Healthy Kids Advisor assisting each one. We had 45 minutes to create, taste, cook and plate up. The buzz and noise in the room was at a high. Students grated, chopped, measured and kneaded. Along the way, the volunteers assisted with safety skills and recipe instructions, discussing the tastes and textures of each ingredient.

The students took charge in every aspect. The final step was to clean down the wooden tables that doubled as preparation benches and lay out plates and cutlery for the class. A small posy of flowering herbs finished off the setting.

Our Advisors joined the class to tuck into the tasty, freshly plucked produce that had been transformed into healthy, delicious family-friendly meals. Students chatted to each other about what they’d made and confidently explored new flavours. Every serving was polished off.

Rain or shine garden activity

Elwood Primary School’s garden sessions are led by Michelle, their part-time garden specialist, alongside a number of volunteer green thumbs from the community. Before moving off to their activities, the students gathered under a pepperberry tree to hear Michelle discuss the meaning of biodiversity and the seasonal effects on the garden.

Like the kitchen session, the garden activities were sectioned into four groups. Today the students would harvest produce for their kitchen, top up the worm farm, make bug hotels and use their garden journals to document seasonal changes to their adopt-a-plant. A Healthy Kids Advisor would lead each activity with them. The students were ready to go, each of them confident and active in using the gardening equipment and navigating their way through the sprawling, green garden beds.

Garden artwork at Elwood Primary School.

When the rain came down, the groups shifted undercover to complete the bug hotels. Another group moved into the large garden shed to listen to Michelle read gardening picture books and explore the sound of worms wriggling on baking paper.

The rain eased and we were off on a snail hunt. Plucking them carefully from leafy fronds and passing them on to the hungry chickens.

Our Healthy Kids Advisors were elated at the end of the day to have participated in this special chance to experience the full program in action at Elwood Primary School. Each of the Advisors spoke about the new ideas and lessons they’d witnessed and their plans to fold pleasurable food education into their own communities. 

Kitchen Garden members can check up on what Elwood Primary School has been up to on our resource, sharing and inspiration hub, the Shared Table.

Want more information?
To find out more about the Healthy Kids Advisors initiative,  read the FAQs or contact hka@kitchengardenfoundation.org.au

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Healthy Kids Advisors is a 3-year initiative supported by the Victorian Government and the Australian Government.

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