From Bucket to Table: The Life Story of a Squash

flower
At first, there’s the female flower with a little green bulb behind it. Pollen from the male flowers, which are on straight stems, fertilize the female flower, causing the little green bulb to develop into a squash fruit.new fruit
Once the flower has been fertilized, it dries up and the little green bulb grows into a new, developing squash fruit.

fattening fruit
Over a few days, with adequate water, sun, soil nutrients, and protection from pests, the squash fruit gets fatter and longer.

ready to pick
In just a few more days, the squash fruit is ready to pick.

with other veggies
Squash is delicious when combined with other fresh garden vegetables. All the veggies pictured here were freshly picked from our Learn & Grow test garden.

next on the chopping block
The picked squash fruit is waiting its turn to be chopped up for the skillet.

all chopped
All the squash is now chopped.

chopped with other veg in skillet
All the chopped veggies and squash are in the skillet, waiting to be cooked.

cooking on stove with veg and chicken
The squash and other garden veggies are cooking in the skillet with chicken.

plated with rice
Sauteed squash and veggies from our Learn & Grow test garden with chicken, served also with wild rice.

Relocating a Self-Watering Bucket Container Garden

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Our Learn & Grow Educational Series test garden was started in June 2013 as an experiment motivated by my personal curiosity about food, people’s relationships with it, their understandings about where food comes from, food education in our schools, the nutritional values of food served to students in our public schools, the relationships between nutrition and student success, and the myriad other factors that interrelate with all of these named concerns. My brain started traveling down this path after I saw Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution and his TED video, concurrent with a Facebook friend’s irate posts about GMOs in our food supply, about which I’d known little until he’d started posting.

Mr. Oliver’s whole mission is to educate every child about food, where it comes from, and what makes it healthy or not. He is correct in presuming that our public school system has a huge role in fostering or undermining healthy eating habits in children, given that we send our kids to school for six hours a day, 5 days a week for 9-10 months out of the year and that millions of them eat lunch at school, if not both lunch and breakfast. In my sister’s children’s school district in rural Northwest Arkansas and the surrounding area, the poverty is so pervasive that breakfast and lunch continue to be served to children throughout normal school breaks, such as summer, to make sure they don’t starve.

As a child and family educational advocate, the connection between food education and learning was obvious to me and starting the garden was the first step to me really wrapping my head around the issue involved and start thinking of ways that KPS4Parents could make a positive contribution to this instructional need. My first thought was that Mr. Oliver’s campaign was dead on the money when it came to identifying the issues, but he only addresses what to do with fresh vegetables once you have them, which is to prepare and eat them. He’s a chef; that’s the knowledge he brings to the table and it is incredibly important knowledge to be shared.

Mr. Oliver’s research revealed that three generations of Americans in a row have failed to teach their children how to cook from fresh ingredients such that most people only know how to heat up processed packaged foods or eat out. His goal to equip students with a number of simple recipes that they can competently cook for themselvesĀ before they leave school is something I can enthusiastically support. He’s right; it needs to be done.

garden

My questions, though, became, “Where are students going to get the fresh fruits and veggies, especially in food desert communities? How can you pass on the skill of cooking to people who can’t get the ingredients in the first place?”

While not all food sourcing issues can be resolved with our Learn & Grow Educational Series gardening approach, it can still become a critical part of feeding people in hunger at a relatively low cost, particularly if the buckets can be obtained for free, gently used from local restaurants and bakeries.

So, my gears started turning around those kinds of issues. Also in my mind was all the information about how to make self-watering bucket containers like I’d done and how they had been promoted for urban gardening in limited spaces, as well as how they could possibly be used with older adults who maybe couldn’t get down on their hands and knees to pull weeds in an in-ground garden, anymore. We built our first community service garden at the same property that now houses our test garden for an older gentleman who is dependent upon a wheelchair and finds that he can sit and reach into the self-watering bucket containers we built and put onĀ his deck, where there was no way he could access plants in the yard, even in a raised bed.

In the Fall 2013 semester, I took Instructional Design and learned how to create learning products around instructional outcomes and teaching methodologies. It was a required course towards my master’s degree in educational psychology and was a mix of marketing psychology and evidence-based instruction. It was fascinating and it gave me a vehicle to develop this whole self-watering bucket container solution into an instructional product that could, for at least some children, fill the gap left by Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution with respect to sourcing the foods that kids should be taught to cook.

20141026_122040Fast forward to August 2014 and we could no longer keep the garden at its original location. It had to be moved. “No worries,” I said. “One of the perks of using self-watering bucket containers is that they are portable.”

After promoting these self-watering bucket containers as portable and, thus, appropriate for renters who wanted to be able to take their gardens with them, I got the chance to prove it. And, I did. Continue reading Relocating a Self-Watering Bucket Container Garden