Indian Run students make fresh pesto
Indian Run Elementary School teacher Katie Guehl helps her students pick basil from the garden behind the school Sept. 12. The class is is participating in a program called Veggie U which teaches about healthy eating, sustainable foods and agriculture. Buy This Photo
The halls of Indian Run Elementary School were redolent with fresh basil last week, thanks to Katie Guehl.
The fourth-grade life science teacher's students got to make fresh pesto as part of the Veggie U classroom garden program.
"We did pickles last year," Guehl said.
Last week, however, pesto was on the menu, made with spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil, as well as basil grown by Indian Run students in the school garden.
"I got them a recipe and we read about where it came from," Guehl said.
Veggie U, Guehl said, is free and its goal is to teach students about nutrition and agriculture.
"They learn about local farming," she said, noting that many suburban children don't know where their food comes from. "They learn about eating fresh and healthy, and making good choices."
Guehl piloted the program last year. It was developed by a nonprofit that works to improve the health of children. The program has issued garden kits to classrooms in 29 states.
The program teaches state standards and curriculum and is free through a donation from Chipotle. However, science standards are shifting in the state and the program is making a transition to the third grade.
Next year Veggie U will likely be exclusive to third-graders.
"During the school year, we grow a lot of things, but not a lot of things kids can eat," Guehl said. "Veggie U takes care of that."
Last year, the program sent a box of carrots and cauliflower to the school. Recently, Guehl received a package with Mediterranean herbs such as mint, fennel and parsley.
Fourth-graders also get seeds and worms from Veggie U to learn about plants.
"They send dirt, seeds, veggies and worms when you ask them to," Guehl said, noting the program works around the teacher's lesson plan. "It's a dream come true."
Through the program, Chipotle representatives came into the classroom last year and made guacamole.
But last week's lesson had an Italian twist as students harvested basil from the school garden and cut spinach.
A mortar and pestle were utilized to grind up the ingredients, a job coveted by the students.
Quality control was also a job in high demand among the students. Only a few who tried the pesto didn't like it. Others were amazed they could make something that tasted so good.
"Our goal is to see how much we can make," Guehl said. "We'll put it in the refrigerator and give it out during the week."
The pesto-makers got to try it over pasta and Guehl said leftovers will allow other classrooms to sample it. Several teachers were already excited for a taste and popped into the classroom to ask what smelled so good.
"It's like my own Italian kitchen today," Guehl said.