Some second-grade classes have cute hamsters or guinea pigs as pets. But Dorelly Lozaw’s pupils at Morris Township’s Hillcrest Elementary School have grown fond of…worms.
“Only five of my students wanted to touch the red wigglers in the beginning, but by the end of the school year, we would bring them out for recess and they would have them on their desks,” she said.
“During recess, they loved to dig for worms. They wouldn’t even go on the playground. It really transformed them.”
Lozaw’s efforts earned her “Classroom Cultivator” honors from Grow It Green Morristown at its Alfresco at the Farm fundraiser over the weekend.
It’s the first such award given at this event by the nonprofit, which is dedicated to making fresh produce accessible to the community. Grow It Green Morristown has honored farm volunteers and teachers at its other annual fundraiser, Diamonds for Kale.
Slideshow photos by Penny Lopez
Lozaw, who teaches second grade bilingual students, has been bringing her pupils to Grow It Green’s Urban Farm behind the Lafayette School for various projects over the last five years.
“My experience that I really liked with her was when she wanted to build a scarecrow with her kids,” said Shaun Ananko, director of agriculture and education at the Urban Farm, which is New Jersey’s largest public school garden.
“So I brought all of the equipment to her classroom and we built it right outside in the field, and after she kept it in her classroom for the entire year.”
Ananko said he chose Lozaw, who has been a teacher for 13 years, as the Classroom Cultivator recipient because of her enthusiasm in introducing school gardening programs to students.
Lozaw described the Urban Farm as an ideal classroom.
“It’s more meaningful and valuable getting hands-on experience here,” she said at Saturday’s Alfresco event, at the Urban Farm. “It’s different than learning about gardening and plants on paper. Just coming here and seeing all of the flowers, vegetables, bees and tasting the fruits is an awesome opportunity for them.”
Class projects have included learning about the produce cycle, from table to compost and back again, making a scarecrow, and even having worms as class pets.
The link between the Urban farm, established in 2010, and classrooms is growing stronger, according to Ananko.
“We’ve really worked hard to build a relationship with Grow it Green and the Morris School District, especially when it comes to field trips and classroom education,” he said.
This year Grow It Green will hire a farm educator , Tina Miller, to carry on the work that the organization’s Food Corps service member, Sara Katz, has done for two years. She’ll work with the second graders throughout the Morris School District.
Katz has gone into classrooms at the Hillcrest and Woodland schools to provide lessons on basic nutrition, healthy eating, and how to grow plants, all with the purpose of getting kids exciting about eating vegetables.
“We know that when students are either planting or harvesting produce, they are more excited to eat it or try it,” said Grow It Green Executive Director Abby Gallo. “And a lot of them look up to Farmer Shaun or Farmer Sara because they’re excited to see what they have to share.”
Food Corps is an arm of AmeriCorps, and its goal is to bring farm- and nutrition education into the classroom.
More than 1,600 students from the Morris School District and other districts visited the Urban Farm this spring. The Urban Farm also has donated 1,000 pounds of produce to the Interfaith Food Pantry, the Community Soup Kitchen of Morris County, and the Table of Hope.
“That number will increase,” said Gallo.
This family-friendly fundraiser included a raffles and prizes, relay races for children, rock- and face painting and flower-crown building. Food was provided by local restaurants including Millie’s Old World Pizza & Meatballs, Enjou, The Artist Baker, Pure Pita and Pascarella Brothers. The Pine Sap Kings were the musical entertainment.