So do you guys know what lateral thinking is? Have you heard of project-based learning? You may have recently, especially if you have a student in LAUSD as the new Common Core standards are trying to encompass a bit more of it. Well, just for fun here’s the definition::
“Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono.”
If any of you have visited Dr. Eric for help solving a problem that as it turns out, is not straight chiropractic, or if you’ve been there for a headache for example, and walked away with a saliva test kit and two bottles from Standard Process, then you know kinda what I mean.
Another thing that Dr. Eric does is sponsor #minimrsdrdahl’s school garden. Which helps to foster the same thing: Lateral learning. That way the kids get the whole kit and caboodle too. Literally. Nutrition, sure, gardening, agriculture, sure, but also history, science, literature, math, social studies, art, homemaking, vocabulary, and even sex-ed.
Today for example, was a red letter day in the Kentwood School garden.
8 months ago, in March, Kentwood kids planted butternut squash seeds. Students visited their budding seedlings during recess most days and watered them as they grew. Over the summer, our PTO-sponsored drip watering system fed those plants as they turned into vines. Upon our return in August, they were growing like mad, flowering, and had some small squash beginning. By Fall, those squash were ready to pick.
Last year, Dr. Eric was the one who figured that the school, and students would best benefit if we preserved the fruits of their labor, especially over the summer. Luckily, I’m good at canning. And Dr. Eric, ever the one for linguistic puns, coined the term “Koala Food” (the school mascot is Kenny the Koala). We will be selling the finished products this coming spring, in our silent auction at Family Fun Day. All organic, kid-grown, school garden produce and recipes. So far, we have at least two dozen jars put up.
Recently, our wonderful school librarian approached me. She had thought of me, she said, when she read a darling book called “Sophie’s Squash” (Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne Wilsdorf). The story is about a little girl who thinks a butternut squash is so neat, she decides to make it her new toy. She draws a face on it and takes it with her everywhere just like a baby doll; She cannot be swayed to eat it or switch it out for another toy. When the squash starts to finally get soft, she consults the farmers market…they tell her to tuck it away in a bed of soil and give it lots of water and it will be happy. The next season, she visits her squash-friend only to find that it has grown into a vine and has produced more baby squash. Delightful story.
“AWESOME!” I said. We just happen to have a butternut squash growing in the school garden right now! Our fantastic librarian went on to approach the fabulous 3rd grade teachers, who’s science unit this year covers seeds and planting. I mentioned that I had recently made “Koala Food” butternut squash soup that they could taste too! And it all fell into place.
Today, 8 months of work came to fruition. I witnessed first hand, the reasons why I do what I do. Why Dr. Eric spends his weekends toiling in the school garden.
The 3rd graders and I talked about seasons, the Fall and what that means, what holidays happen in the Autumn, what foods they associate with those holidays. We discussed how butternut squash is similar to pumpkin moreso than zucchini, and how one butternut squash varietal differs from another. I showed them three different kinds of butternut squash. They recognized the similarity when comparing themselves with their classmates: all human, all kids, all the same, but different – different colors, different shapes, different sizes. Fun new adjectives were used to describe the differences (of the fruits): oblong, bulbous, knobby, smooth, oval, orange, golden, big, giant, petite, graceful, curvy. We learned the meaning of “heirloom,” which like their family’s collectibles or finery, is a very special, handed-down-through-generations seed type that isn’t usually available in standard grocery stores. They recognized thusly the importance of supporting local family farms and supporting their local farmer’s market.
In the eating of the recipe itself, the students had an opportunity to enhance the dimension of their learning. Sensory appreciations: taste, texture, sweet, salty…”In the soup are apples, onions, sage, cinammon, can you taste them?” I asked. “Can you smell the cinammon?” We passed around fresh sage…doesn’t it complement the flavor of the squash to have a fresh leaf on top? what does the flavor remind you of? It’s a bit like pumpkin pie but not as sweet…do you know the word savory?”
I asked them questions that made them think or recognize things they might very well have known but never connected. Did they know that butternut squash originated in Mexico? Or that it was cultivated by Native Americans? I asked them if they had any family recipes that were their family’s “heirlooms.” What other vegetables are orange? what makes them so? Betacarotene I told them. Its good for eyesight. That squash contains a whole alphabet of vitamins: A,B,C, iron, potassium, zinc, and that those things are anti-oxidants that help reduce risk of cancer, cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke – in short, keep you healthy and happy. The seeds contain tryptophan which is used by your body to help your brain. These orange fruits of fall are excellent for your eyes, and more importantly, your hearts and your brains. Perhaps this is another reason why Sophie chose the squash as her friend? Because what is better for your heart or brain than a really good friend? Or your favorite toy? And to remind them daily, the Librarian will keep the garden-fresh butternut squash in the library, wearing its drawn-on happy face, just like Sophie’s.
After we tasted the soup, we walked into the garden and saw another squash growing, and other fall fruits, pumpkins and zucchini. The kids noticed the squash blossoms so we talked about these flowers being either male or female and how the plant needs both sexes living happily side by side in order to grow the fruits. The children surmised that it was, of course, the female flowers that grew the squash. Some of them had eaten stuffed squash blossoms before, filled with Mexican (Queso Fresco), French (Chèvre), Greek (Feta), or Italian (Mozzarella) cheese. If they dared, we tasted the leaves too, which are likewise edible, good for you and can even be used in stir-fry, salads, or instead of tortillas for wraps.
The kids, if interested, will take home the recipe, allowing them to practice at home both the culinary arts, as well as their math (measurement) skills. Their teachers will dispearse seeds from one of our school-grown squashes and they will grow their own plants, eventually transplanting them, once again, into the school garden. I am hoping they will talk about this with their families which will in turn foster a growing interest in vegetables and eating well. Perhaps, come spring, they will encourage their parents to bid on the Koala Food items in the silent auction, again encouraging health and wellness at home, as well as providing funding for next year’s school garden.
There are lots of expressions that come to mind to describe an experience so all encompassing. The whole kit and caboodle is one. Going the whole nine yards is another. The whole shebang. Going whole hog, going all in…the list goes on. But it is EVERYTHING.
Days spent like this at school are FUN. Learning like this will motivate these kids to grow into future doctors, scientists, farmers, writers, artists, healers, problem solvers. When they grow up, I hope they make a difference in this world…help us find some balance. And, I sure hope they will be as good at what what they do as Dr. Eric is at what HE does.
Oh, and in case you are FIRED up to try the recipe, this is the one that I loosely followed: http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/roasted-butternut-squash-soup-30466
If you’d like to read the darling book: http://www.amazon.com/Sophies-Squash-Pat-Zietlow-Miller/dp/0307978966
Coby Dahlstrom (aka #mrsdrdahl)
Providing Integrated Alternative Therapies, Chiropractic Care, and Acupuncture in Santa Monica since 1999 (http://santamonicahealingarts.com). Check out our 5-star Review on Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/biz/santa-monica-healing-arts-santa-monica) or find us on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Santa-Monica-Healing-Arts)
Sophie’s Squash is the reipient of a number award for children’s literature:
Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice-WINNER
Golden Kite Award for Fiction-WINNER
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year-WINNER
Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Children’s Book of the Year-SELECTION 2014
Charlotte Zolotow Award-HONOR 2014
Ezra Jack Keats New Writer/Illustrator Award-HONOR 2014