October marks National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate the connections happening all over the country between children and local food. The Boulder JCC takes immense pride in housing both one of the one top-rated early childhood centers in Boulder, the Jay and Rose Phillips Early Childhood Center, and the educational and sustainable Milk and Honey Farm on its campus; making the connection of students to local foods steps away!
The Boulder JCC’s commitment to delivering a top-notch early childhood education program is evident in its approach, which fosters learning through play, discovery, and inquiry. Children embark on a journey of exploration, utilizing a variety of engaging activities to interact with their surroundings. The Jay and Rose Phillips Early Childhood Center at the Boulder JCC offers an innovative Forest School program that combines a unique blend of Forest School philosophy with a play-based, constructivist Reggio Emilia approach. The dedicated Forest School Teachers guide students toward the concept of Tikkun Olam, nurturing them to become stewards of the environment through year-round outdoor learning, exploration at the Milk and Honey Farm, and unique curriculum opportunities.
The Spring and Summer months of 2023 have allowed Forest School students to have many opportunities to explore the bounty of the Milk and Honey Farm, with classes being held at the honey bee hives, in the geodesic dome with an edible garden, or amongst the orchard trees.
During the spring and summer seasons, Farmer Paige, with her boundless creativity, invited students to delve into a world of immersive exploration of honey bees, engaging them in creative movement exercises to mimic the intricate activities of bees, gearing up in bee suits for up-close hive viewing, and tasting the delicious honey from extraction activities. These experiences serve to foster a profound understanding and appreciation for these incredibly important insects, the delicacy they produce for us, and the work they do to maintain our supply of fresh food.
The students found themselves immersed in the colorful foliage and vegetation the Milk and Honey Farm had to produce this season. As part of the Boulder County Farm to Early Care and Education program and the Milk and Honey Farm’s mission, food is harvested and donated to schools around the Boulder County area, the Early Childhood Center at the Boulder JCC being one of those schools. With weekly deliveries of local, seasonal food, the children have the ideal circumstance to taste, cook with, inspect, and appreciate local food. Sowing seeds for the season, dissecting fruits and vegetables to see their inner workings, and making vibrant food creations like beet hummus and pesto, contribute to the understanding of the work it takes to produce such abundance and the feeling of joy that is sparked through, quite literally, enjoying the fruits of labor.
As the colder weather comes with the changing seasons, the connection between the students and the Early Childhood Center with local food does not get cut off. Many times, the lessons being learned at the Farm are brought into the classrooms for a more investigative, sensory approach. Sensory bins spark interest by providing materials to inspire students about lessons learned on the Farm, light tables are covered in dried vegetation to view the vascular systems of plants, and community cooking activities are encouraged in every classroom.
Though October is designated as Farm to School Month, the ongoing dedication and commitment of the Early Childhood Center at the Boulder JCC ensures that every month can be celebrated as Farm to School Month. Through continuous efforts and initiatives within the curriculum, the spirit of connecting students with locally sourced food remains a year-round endeavor, fostering healthy habits and a deeper connection between food and community.