Marquez Elementary Students Learn About Food

Marquez Garden teacher Marie Steckmest stood next to the second grade students who spoke at the garden event.

Through Planting and Harvesting at Campus Gardens

Marquez Elementary third graders started melon and pumpkin seeds under grow lights. They tried to harden the seedlings, but squirrels ate most of the plants. (Harden means that plants are gradually introduced to the outdoors, they might not make it if they are planted directly into a garden.) Before school was out, the students tried again with the seedlings, this time keeping the newly sprouted plants under protective netting.

Two of those students told a small audience that gathered on June 4 at Marquez to celebrate the gardening program, “We were the first to plant pumpkin seeds at the school.”

Annually, the harvesting event is held at the end of the school year so “students can showcase what they learned and what they like about gardening,” said master gardener and volunteer Marie Steckmest, who has worked with Marquez students for seven years.

“Every class has a bed,” said Steckmest, who explained that the involvement of the class is dependent on the teacher. “Some garden more than others.”

Second through fifth graders tie in the planting with class curriculum. Fourth graders study California history and they work on a native garden. Gaby told the audience that “The state flower is a poppy. Don’t pick it or you’ll be arrested.”

Her classmates spoke about the sticky monkey flower and California sage brush and their uses.

Fifth graders spoke about the heirloom seeds and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Younger students were enthusiastic about the butterfly gardens, the Peter Rabbit garden and the pizza garden.

Third grader Aurora said, “Gardening is fun!” Classmate Leo said, “We got to garden with Miss Marie. It’s really fun, we grow lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms and we get to pull the weeds out so the plants stay healthy.” He added, “We made pizza!”

Then, guests were given a tour of the different gardens and the plants.

Circling the News had three informative guides: third graders Aidan and Soyer, and first grader Ayane, who showed the gardens in the lower yard and the upper yard, identifying plants and explaining how to care for them.

Students, such as (left to right) Ayane, Soyer and Aidan served as tour guides to the different gardens.

After the tour, Steckmest said: “As a seed-to-table program, one goal has been to cook with the students (or feed them veggies) as much as possible.

“We celebrate National Kale Day, National Nutrition Day and the kickoff of Farm-to-School Month (October) and Fresh Kids Week (last week of school) with fruit and vegetables tastings for the whole school, either before or after school.”

This year during Farm-to-School Month, second through fifth graders cooked with different chefs: Chef Sam Minim, formerly of Tratto, made ratatouille with students; Sweet Laurel founder Laurel Gallucci made a dessert; and Tallula’s Chef Saw Naing made tortillas and veggie quesadillas with students.

Also, personal holistic chef CC Consalvo made frittatas, Sweet Rose Creamery showed kids how to make banana ice cream, Doug Silverberg made a salad and Jessica Siegel (Gelson’s nutritionist) made strawberry kale salad with students.

“We also had a farmer from One Gun Ranch in Malibu who talked about organic farming and brought vegetables and fruit to share,” said Steckmest, who was awarded a 2016 Pacific Palisades Community Council Sparkplug Award for her volunteer efforts in the elementary school gardens.

“At the end of school, I received thank-you notes from two classes,” Steckmest said. “Many thanked me for having the respective chefs – Saw of Tallula’s and Sam from Tratto – cook with them. The kids made tortillas from masa (a corn dough) and flattened them in a tortilla maker before they were cooked and filled with cheese. It was a super fun experience!”


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