The Majura Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden

It’s so much more than cooking.” – A kitchen volunteer

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Our Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden at Majura Primary School provides pleasurable food education to children in a fun and engaging environment. Our students get to spend 45 minutes a fortnight in our wonderful vegetable garden under the guidance of our Garden Specialist, then every other week they spend one and a half hours with our Kitchen Specialist in our home-style kitchen classroom preparing and sharing a wonderful variety of meals created from the produce they have grown in the garden.


A day in the Kitchen Garden for our students…

Growing

Working in the garden means finding out the very best ways to grow food. We also work out ways to save water, to use up scraps from the kitchen, to enjoy being out in the sunshine, and how to look after all the plants in our garden. We now know that worms are a garden’s best friends and that snails don’t like climbing over eggshells!

 

Harvesting

IMG_0544We pick many different vegetables and herbs and even flowers to use in the kitchen. This year we have grown broccoli, climbing beans, cauliflowers, cabbages, silver beet, rhubarb, fennel, potatoes, zucchini and many others. Some foods take a long time to be ready to eat but when the weather is warm the leafy salads grow very fast. The broad bean plants are so tall – just like Jack-in-the Beanstalk. The basil plants smelt beautiful all summer and we used the leaves on tomato salads.

Preparing

image011Being in the kitchen is great fun and every week the menu is different. We use as much as we can from the garden. Rolling pasta is very popular and everyone has now had a turn. We can make stuffings for ravioli using greens from the garden and ricotta cheese. We can also roll pastry for vegetable pies and calzone, we can make fritters, and muffins and pizza, and many different salads and risotto, and in the winter everyone loved making soup. Most of us have now tried new foods, and we all think of good words to describe these flavours and textures.

Sharing

jesse max zacEating the food is the very best part of being in the kitchen. There is a warm and friendly feeling in the room as we taste how good everything tastes. Each group arranges their dish on platters so that every table has at least four different dishes every week. The platters of food look beautiful and there is hardly ever anything leftover and everyone feels really proud of their work. It is important to learn to pass the platters and the water to each other and to understand about sharing everything. The tables look pretty with herbs and flowers in little vases.

The philosophy of the Kitchen Garden Program at Majura

  • We immerse children in their learning by encouraging talk and thinking that uses all of the senses.
  • We stress pleasure, flavour and texture, by avoiding describing food to children as ‘healthy’ as the main or only descriptor.
  • We plan menus around seasonal availability taking account of growing timelines. For example, lots of basil is likely to lead to a pesto-making session and lots of green tomatoes to chutney or pickles.
  • We seek to expand children’s culinary horizons so that new foods and cultural differences are presented as fascinating rather than strange.
  • We seek to expand the children’s understanding and vocabulary for describing flavours and textures, and garden & plant terms.
  • We use fresh ingredients at their peak. For example, herbs should not be past their season nor beans be overgrown and tough.
  • We time the cooking of raw fruit and vegetables with great care so children are not presented with unpalatable or unappealing food.
  • We believe in the intrinsic value of coming together around a table to share a meal that has been jointly prepared.
  • We believe the school and the Kitchen Garden program is an asset and resource for the whole community.
  • We value the role of the volunteers, the Garden and Kitchen Specialists and the classroom teachers to provide learning experiences that are fun and enjoyable for children.

ACT demonstration school for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

Majura Primary School is the ACT demonstration school for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. This means that we share our knowledge with other schools, teachers and interested groups, and help support and train other schools in the region joining the National Program.

Majura is proud of our school, our children and our links with local community and is deeply committed to the Kitchen Garden being an asset and resource for the whole community.  We relish the opportunity to welcome visitors, facilitate learning, and increase volunteer and community participation in our Kitchen Garden program.

Majura kids grow

I’m the Garden Specialist at Majura Primary School.  I’m very new to this job, having only taken on the role at the beginning of Term 2 this year.  My background is in hospitality, so you should always see with a smile!  After having my 3 children I turned my hobby of gardening into a business with a friend in Sydney.  Since moving to Canberra 18 months ago with my family, I have found little time to spend with clients as I was volunteering a lot of my time to the school garden.  And now I find myself the in the wonderful position of Garden Specialist.

The rewards from the garden are great, the obvious being the edible produce to come out of it.  Other rewards are much more subtle , such as watching a student secretly sneaking a bean or watching as others learn about caring behavior through the aid of our lovely “ladies”- the chooks.

There are the students that are intrigued by the micro -life of the compost and worm farm while others prefer to dig trenches.  Some prefer the fine motor skills required for sowing lettuce seeds or tying herb posies. The garden is a place where everyone can shine.

While some people do posses a so called “green thumb’, the most important thing to remember is that a thumb of any colour is welcome in the Majura Kitchen Garden. I would love to see as many parents, grandparents, carers and local community members volunteering in the garden as possible!

Happy gardening,

Thea Young

Majura kids cook

I’m the Kitchen Specialist at Majura Primary School. I am pretty new at this job – before kids I worked in the university system as a Biology Lecturer, but I have always loved kids, teaching and food so this job seemed perfect and I am loving it.

I have seen the program grow from it’s beginnings to it’s amazing breadth and depth we see today.  I feel really privileged to be a part of that.  And the most important part of the program are the kids.  They never cease to astonish me every day I am in the kitchen with them and hopefully through this blog I will be able to give you a window into the Majura Kitchen so you can see how special they are.

I thought I would begin this blog by letting you see what a kitchen class is like.   The kids come into the dining room and put on their aprons, helping each other, if needed, to tie them up, they take a seat and I introduce the day.  The menu is Farfalle with Tomato Sauce, Spring Onion Fritters and Green Salad with Lemon and Honey Dressing. I ask if anyone knows what Farfalle means and after good guesses someone says “bowties”, then we move down into the kitchen.

The kids love to use the pasta machine and they quickly figure out that it requires good team work. Once they have rolled out the pasta into long (sometimes very long), thin strips they cut them into rectangles with a pasta wheel and then the volunteer grand-mum demonstrates the tricky manoeuvre involving their thumb, index and middle fingers to create bowties.  Well I thought it was a tricky manoeuvre!

A volunteer from our local community supervises three kids halving the tomatoes with the serrated knives and another grating the garlic.  It all then goes into the saucepan and everyone gets a go at stirring.  Then they pass the sauce through the mouli to remove the seeds and skin, and again everyone gets a go to turn the mouli.  Everyone tastes the sauce and agrees it needs a bit more pepper.

Meanwhile the salad group has been in the garden harvesting fresh salad leaves which they choose by looking, feeling and tasting.  In today’s salad I counted 9 varieties of salad leaves.  Spinning the leaves to dry them after washing them is one of the most sort-after activities in the kitchen – they just go crazy for it.  They then prepare the dressing, taste test, and decide it needs more lemon.  Two of the students volunteer to set the tables whilst the other two prepare the water jugs with slices of lime, leaves of lemon verbena and ice cubes.

Three members of the Fritter group are confronted with how to chop the spring onions without onion tears.  The volunteer mum keeps a watchful, guiding eye but lets the kids discover the way to solve their problem.  They choose three different ways – a knife, scissors and the mezzaluna, the knife resulting in more tears than the other methods.  Another student goes out into the garden to pick some basil and parsley.  Then they separate the yolks from the whites and they take turns to whisk the whites.  Cooking is also a cooperative effort, each taking turns at the various jobs.

Whilst we wait for one of the groups to finish the teacher asks the class to come up with cooking verbs they used in the kitchen today – cut, turn, roll, whisk, stir.  With all the dishes on the tables, I ask the kids to take a moment to admire the food before them and I congratulate on an amazing effort.  They pass the food round, making sure everyone has a bit of everything.  One girl at my table insists she doesn’t eat tomatoes, so I suggest she tries just one farfalle, so she does.  I notice a bit later that her plate is full of farfalle – I say nothing, but I am happy.

Everyone helps to cleans up, the bell goes, they hang up their aprons and run off to lunch.  I look round the kitchen, it is clean and tidy.

They were awesome!