Garden Kitchen Lab

The Garden Kitchen Lab is a backyard-to-table STEAM educational program for underserved communities. Our mission is to give youth access to healthy and locally grown food through starting and sustaining food-producing gardens. This hands-on multi-disciplinary program puts the power in the hands of community children, so they understand the link between food production and the environment, and take ownership of their health.


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The Garden Keeps On Giving

The summer camp students designed a series of collages and drawings of what they saw and experienced in the garden, they used traditional and digital media to create their pieces.

The following are some the kid’s observations:

“Today I am so excited because we actually got to make a quinoa salad. First we were taught that quinoa comes Peru and Bolivia. Then we went downstairs and got to harvest some of the ingredients that we are using to add to the quinoa. After we went to the kitchen and started. First we chopped up the chives, then shredded the parsley and chopped the peppers. Last was the avocado. While we were chopping Ms. Fabiola was cooking the quinoa. We used a big tray to put the lettuce on the sides of the tray. Then we poured the quinoa and added the parsley, sweet peppers and avocado. Then we ate the delicious quinoa and stuffed ourselves.”

“What I did today is to harvest chives and parsley. Then we added the quinoa, avocado, red peppers, chives and lettuce. We added strawberry vinaigrette, salt and olive oil. I thought it tasted awesome.”

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July: Seeing it Grow In So Many Ways

We ended the Spring Session with the afterschool students releasing Monarch butterflies, and celebrating an early harvest. The students prepared a salad with strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, chives, Swiss chard, three types of basil, Italian oregano, spearmint and chocolate mint. The children were introduced to shiitake mushrooms; which they had not eaten before.

Here some of the observations the kids wrote on their journals:

Madisyn, 9 years old
“We planted and watered the plants and we watched them grow. We had a plant named Bessie, she was a lettuce, but she died because we planted her in the winter. Now Bessie is compost, so she is not dead anymore.” […] “I enjoyed planting because we got our hands dirty and that is what makes a good artist.” […] I learned that compost is good for the plants because it helps them grow more.”

Amir, 8 years old
“I learned that there are thousands of plants and that worms are good for plants and make their roots stronger.”

Alissa, 10 years old
“I enjoyed composting because we get to make it ourselves and we stirred it. I learned that red worms have five hearts and are good for plants because when their poop gets absorbed by the plants and makes them stronger. You can make compost with egg shells, banana peels, avocado and put it in a bin. We also made quinoa salad. The ingredients to make the salad are red pepper, avocado, parsley, lettuce. You chop everything an mix it with the cooked quinoa. Quinoa comes from Peru and Bolivia. The peasants are the ones who grow quinoa.”

Daica, 8 years old
“I enjoyed composting the most because you get to see how something is after hours and hours. What I learned in the garden is that you can plant new things and improve them.”

Ugochi, 9 years old
“I chose composting because I got to get stuff as food scraps to put in the compost bin. We planted flowers so when the bees come to get pollen from the flower it spreads the pollen to a plant.” […] “We add avocado, red pepper, parsley and lettuce. You mix the ingredients to make quinoa salad.”

Holiday, 7 years old
“I learned to plant and compost. Composting is when you put things together like tomatoes and egg shells. We planted flowers to attract bees.”

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April & May: Time to Plant & Reflect

During the last five weeks the kids have been planting and seeing their seeds grow. We are growing carrots, beets, two different kind of lettuces, cucumbers, Habanero peppers  —these are part a seed exchange program with the Global Partner Junior group in Mexico City, bok choy, onions, eggplants, chives, strawberries, chocolate mint, parsley, lemon thyme, rosemary, lavender, spearmint, oregano, winter squash, basil, Thai basil, mint, golden thyme, Italian oregano, red peppers, yellow peppers and different types of heirloom tomatoes from seeds the kids saved last year.

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Early Fall At St. John’s

The children prepare a new plant bed to transplant beet starters using compost and soil donated by GreenThumb. In the kitchen the kids learn how to ferment tomatoes to save seeds for next spring, and back it the garden we continue to harvest tomatoes, we have been making tomato and broccoli salads. This has been a mild fall and the eggplant plants, the tomatoes and even the jalapeño pepper plants are still giving! We are also pleased to have found a new heirloom tomato in the garden. The kids are closely documenting how its shape is changing every day! And finally one the kids tells us about how she made a spinach strawberry salad at her grandmother’s home, a recipe she learned during class last spring!
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