Garden to Table with Thea

At the KCPS school where she teaches, Thea Samson brings a lot to the table for her English learners and other students. After being placed in a position teaching English as a Second Language through Teach for America, Ms. Samson began taking coursework to earn her ESOL certification, which she is finishing this fall at Webster University. Through these experiences, her passion for serving ELLs has grown. “Education is a key piece to bringing equity to immigrant families and other English language learners, and to be a part of this effort is an honor,” she shared with us.

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A student in Samson’s class searches for healthful options for his lunch tray in Garden to Table class.

Benefitting from resources such as USDA “Dig In!” curriculum and their own school garden, students in her Garden to Table class learn about seasonal vegetables and fruits and how to let their own interests guide their learning. On a warm fall afternoon, Ms. Samson and her students might be digging sweet potatoes to use in a recipe the next day or making pumpkin soup with the cooking club she sponsors after school. They also recently designed healthful lunches by choosing images of items from all food groups to create model lunch trays. From her perspective, the class is well-suited for ELLs because of its structure: “We are constantly working with our hands and the lessons are authentic. Each student is able to make connections between the gardening, nutrition, and cooking aspects, and the lessons include visual supports and kinesthetic activities.”

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Samson and a student talk about a full lunch tray.

Ms. Samson reported there have been many moments when she knew that sharing her love of healthy cooking with her students had paid off:

One of the first cooking projects we did was to cook a kale and cherry tomato scramble served with tortillas. It was the first encounter with kale for most of the students – and they loved it. Three weeks later I had a student tell me she made the scramble over the weekend for her whole family. I thought she was pulling my leg until she showed photos to prove it! Another amazing experience was bringing the students to the American Royal Rodeo. The students were absorbed in the petting zoo, the cow milk simulation station, the sheep dog and the talented young cowboys and cowgirls in the rodeo. It was a first for every single student!

Moments like these encourage her to continue developing curriculum and investing the time and effort to plan engaging lessons. “It is fun and easy to be healthy once you discover the thousands of interesting dishes you can make that are nutritious and delicious,” she added, “What a great privilege to continue my own pursuits with energetic middle school students.”

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Cooking Club participants read through the recipe before getting started.

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