Digging Deep (at the Danny Woo Garden)

by Lauren Wong

Hello! I’m Lauren, one of two AppleCorps members positioned at the Danny Woo Garden in the Chinatown/International District. We provide garden classes to youth in the neighborhood in the hopes that they’ll learn more about where their food comes from, have a positMagill_DannyWoo_Image (59)ive outdoor experience, and form connections between culture and food. Also incorporated in our program is a healthy cooking component, where we use vegetables harvested from the garden to create delicious salads and snacks.

This spring, I had the pleasure of working with a class of 15 fifth graders from a local after-school program. Since many of them were already acquainted with the garden—either through a previous garden class or a simple meander through the neighborhood—we were able to delve a little deeper into the heart of the garden and what exactly makes it tick.
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We planted microgreen seeds in our own plots and watched them grow, carefully watering and removing weeds each week to gain a sense of the time and effort required to grow our own food. We went on a scavenger hunt to discover the regional origins of different vegetables and dug around in a worm bin looking for critters. We made comfrey compost tea, a great source of nitrogen, and observed it become brown and pungent over time. We prepared an Asian greens salad, a crunchy bok choy slaw, and a sweet and savory dressing that goes well on everything (1 soy sauce: 1 rice vinegar: 1 honey: 2 sesame oil). We harvested garden strawberries and compared them to supermarket strawberries, noticing the differences in taste, color, size, and shape. We investigated seed pods on a mature kale plant, sparking a discussion about the importance of seed saving. And to cap off our time together, we even had an “older kids teach younger kids” tour, where my class of fifth graders brought a class of first graders to the garden and showed them what they learned.

All in all, it was a lovely six weeks of sunshine, food, and joy. Want to learn more about what we do? Visit our blog at dannywookids.blogspot.com.

12 Days of Health at Emerson: Challenging ourselves to a healthy holiday season!

Alivia, an energetic second grader at Emerson, taking the jumping jack challenge!

Alivia, an energetic second grader at Emerson, taking the jumping jack challenge!

By Abby Temple

The Emerson Health and Wellness team sat in our monthly meeting, envisioning the cupcake, candy and cookie filled weeks ahead of us. Holiday celebrations present a dilemma for a nutrition/health educator based in an elementary school—how can we encourage our students to make healthy choices while also recognizing the need for celebrations, for special treats, and for a fun ending to a difficult few months of work? How can we stray from labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” and instead, focus on moderation and “sometimes” foods? With these goals in mind,  our team, composed of myself, my co-educator Ms. Paula, a second grade teacher, our P.E. teacher and one of our ELL teachers, came up with the idea of a “12 Days of Health” promotion for the school.

For the 12 days leading up to winter break, our students were given a challenge each day over the morning announcements. The challenges were as follows:

Day 1: One special treat for working so hard!

Day 2: Two push-ups!

Day 3: Three laps around the black top!

Day 4: Four glasses of water!

Day 5: Five minutes of stretching!

Day 6: Six toe-touches!

Day 7: Seven colors of food in your day!

Day 8: Eight squats!

Day 9: Nine high-knees!

Day 10: Ten jumping jacks!

Day 11: Eleven lunges!

Day 12: Twelve minutes of dancing!

For 12 days, Emerson’s morning announcements were dominated by the lovely singing voices of our Emerson staff. We took turns on the announcements each day, singing the challenge to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” The kids especially loved hearing their P.E. teacher singing—it was quite a treat in itself. I was surprised how many students I actually saw participating in and excited about the challenges. Students stopped me in the hallway to show me their jumping jacks and lunges.  I heard water described as “the most delicious drink ever!” On day twelve, our health challenge culminated in a 12 minute dance party with our first graders. I may have enjoyed the dancing even more than they did. Our super healthy Emerson students are on a great track to a healthy and fun winter break! Happy winter break, Emerson!

Pumpkin Games: Celebrating Halloween through physical activity and seasonal food!

Ready, set, go!

Ready, set, go!

Happy Halloween! Here at Apple Corps, we strive to promote healthy eating and physical activity in the schools we work with – Concord International Elementary and Emerson Elementary. Besides cooking up delicious food in our bi-weekly nutrition classes, we also encourage and plan alternative celebrations during the traditionally candy-heavy holidays of Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

At Concord this year, we  decided to honor Harvest’s iconic vegetable through the celebration of Pumpkin Games in students’ P.E. classes. Students played Pumpkin in the Pumpkin Patch (sharks and minnows), balanced pumpkins on their head in relay races, and even estimated the weight of a giant pumpkin and guessed the number of pumpkin seeds. Students with the most accurate estimations won sugar pumpkins, ready for home cooking with a pumpkin soup recipe attached to their stem. None of these awesome activities would have been possible without the collaboration and ideas from

A (pumpkin) balancing act!

A (pumpkin) balancing act!

Concord’s fabulous P.E. teacher!

Our school winners, two first-graders, guessed the weight exactly of the giant pumpkin (108 pounds) and were 11 seeds away from exact number of pumpkin seeds (1231). Congrats!

After the grand finale of Pumpkin Games on Friday afternoon with a class of 30 Kindergarten students wearing pajama costumes, it was clear there were two main take-aways from Pumpkin Games:

  • It is easy, and sooo fun, to incorporate physical activity and even math into Halloween festivities.
  • If you use hair gel, you will be able to balance a small pumpkin on your head with ease.

Throwback Thursday: Emerson Celebrates a Year of Successful Composting!

By Lisa Woo

As our Americorps terms comes to an end (July 15th is the last day for a handful of our team members) it is hard not to get sentimental about the past year of service. This end of term is especially nostalgic for me as I complete a two year chapter with the Apple Corps program. So, in honor of the amazing community I have had the chance to work with and all that they have taught me, here’s a little Throwback Thursday!

All year long, students at Emerson Elementary, the site school where I have taught nutrition education, have been exploring their role as Earth Stewards through a school-wide lunchroom composting initiative co-led by myself, and our fellow Apple Corps Member, Randa who served as the Active Play Coordinator. Together, we developed a student-led “Compost Hero” lunchroom monitor program that was able to engaged every student at each grade level. In addition, we held several health promotions throughout the year that allowed students to understand the close connection between environmental and personal health!

Students at Emerson embraced the title of "Compost Hero" with their fearless leader, Ms. Randa, a fellow Apple Corps Member (pictured top center)

Students at Emerson embraced the title of “Compost Hero” with their fearless leader, Ms. Randa, a fellow Apple Corps Member (pictured top center)

One such promotion was our Earth Day: Caught Green Handed Celebration, which challenged students to do good deeds for the earth and identify the ripple effects those acts have on their community. Students enjoyed posing in our “Caught” picture frame and having their photos displayed proudly throughout the school hallways.

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Students turning compost into our school garden beds.

The year ended strong with a final school-wide competition that pitted primary grade levels (Kindergarten, First, and Second) against the intermediate grade levels (Third, Fourth, and Fifth) in a Food Waste Challenge similar to the promotion held at Concord Elementary (see link). The challenge was a great way to wrap up a year of compost education and stimulated great conversation among students about how important reducing food waste is for both our bodies and our earth, despite having a fantastic alternative waste deposit system. Paired with quality time in the garden and hands on worm explorations our final week of composting was nothing short of fantastic!

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A group of students deeply engrossed in their worm exploration!

Great job, Emerson Eagles!