Farm to Table Project Introduces Important Skills

December 23, 2019 Barbara Markovic, an intervention specialist at Kirtland High School and Kirtland Middle School, was in the middle of a professional development day just before the start of the school year when she had a lightbulb moment.

Markovic and her colleagues were learning about performance-based assessments, which measure students’ ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned in class. Typically, teachers assign students a task to use their higher-order thinking skills to create a product or complete a process.

After brainstorming with a colleague, the result is a Farm To Table project that spans the entire school year and involves students designing tote bags. She’s working with seven high school and middle school students with disabilities on the project, which touches on reading, writing, mathematics and social-emotional development skills.

The project launched in September when a local artist, Adrian Stupica, was brought in to help students design the bags.

“He helped them understand the concept of Farm To Table Through their drawings,” Markovic said.

Then it was a matter of making decisions on the cost of the bags and how to imprint the design. Through trial and error, the class decided to go with cotton bags. Using new digital equipment supplied by the Kirtland PTA in the Hornet Hackerspace at Kirtland High School, students can digitally imprint their design onto the tote bags through a series of simple steps. The Hackerspace is a new area that invites students to share their interest in tinkering with technology, meet and work on projects and learn from each other.

The class hoped to sell 75 bags total, but within a month they sold 97 bags. Based on their initial success, they will continue to create and sell bags throughout the school year. Proceeds from bag sales will support community outings and future class projects. One of the class’ community outings this year was a trip to Sage Fruit and Vegetable Farm. The Concept of Farm To Table was further cemented with students when they bought fresh fruit and vegetables and learned how to prepare them.

A wrap-around project to the tote bags this spring will be a seed project. Students will grow produce from seeds in their spaces in the Kirtland Community Garden, with plans to sell it back to the school and community. Rock’s Farm and Garden offered to donate trays and soil for the students’ spring plant sale. Last spring the students held a Spring Plant Sale after growing flowers with donated plant trays and seeds from Petitti’s Garden Center.

“The speaker at our professional development day encouraged me to extend my project-based assessment from last year,” Markovic said. “Her asking me to extend myself brought us to this point. That is when I brought in the idea of Farm To Table and incorporated it throughout the year.”

She said the project has connected students and staff with new people and places within the school and local community, with students expanding their skills.

“We are curious to see where this project will further lead us,” she said. “The kids are thoroughly enjoying the project.”

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