Vista Square Students Celebrate Earth Day in the Garden

Students at Vista Square Elementary learned about ‘solar cooking’ as part of Earth Day on April 22. Students used a solar cooker to create a healthy snack mix of kale with olive oil, and sun tea. What’s a solar cooker?

The cooker consists of a foil-lined cardboard reflector with a dark pot inside a plastic bag. (See photo in slide show below.)

This simple mechanism converts hundreds of watts of sunlight into heat and can cook one or two pots of food at a time. The food cooks at 180º-195ºF. Simple solar cookers cook gently, so foods maintain moisture and nutrients, and rarely burn or overcook, said school nurse Pauline Presson, who helped coordinate Vista Square’s Earth Day activity.

In addition to the solar cooking experience, students discovered artichoke, bananas and ladybugs while exploring in the garden.

“But do you know what students loved most of all? The worms…Always the worms!” Presson said. Of course, those were not for the cooking pot.

Vista Square rededicated its school garden as a community garden last year. The 5,000-square-foot garden has raised beds, a garden shed, composting bins, garden tools, a permanent irrigation system, and a small resource library. To encourage the community to take ‘ownership’ of the garden, the beds are being ‘rented’ to different groups. The garden is now fully rented, Presson said.

Encouraging the community to share the space provides the students with a learning laboratory, strengthens collaboration with the school, and provides a beautiful, productive green space.

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