Kids and Herbs

comments (15) March 30th, 2013

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cookinwithherbs susan belsinger, contributor
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Third grade class with teachers Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox and Master Gardener Elizabeth, in the kitchen of Health and Wellness Elementary School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Outdoor classroom is in a courtyard with raised beds, outside tables for eating, crafts and other projects, and greenhouses full of plants grown by the kids.
Recycling is another great lesson for the students--and here they make good use of their milk cartons for seedlings.
Susan Belsinger, Melinda Smith and Tina Marie Wilcox in the kitchen laboratory at HWES.
Herbs for sniffing and tasting and ingredients for Herbes de Provence cream cheese.
Kids cooking! The children learn to handle knives safely under adult supervision.
Everyone loved using the mezzaluna (half moon chopper) to chop the herbs.
Mixing up the herb cream cheese.
The third and fourth graders had a fun time cooking with herbs.
Toasting to good healthy food and gardening!
Here are some stepping stones, trivets and coasters designed and created by the students for their plant sale. They arranged stones, tiles and glass pieces and then put concrete in their molds. We were gifted with some of these beautfiul pieces to take home! Thanks kids!
More craft projects--here the students painted stools and decorated them with seed packages. (Of course they used Renees garden seeds!)
Third grade class with teachers Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox and Master Gardener Elizabeth, in the kitchen of Health and Wellness Elementary School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.Click To Enlarge

Third grade class with teachers Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox and Master Gardener Elizabeth, in the kitchen of Health and Wellness Elementary School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.

Photo: Amy Brand Crain

This story has to do with herbal networking at its best. It starts with our friend, colleague and professional seedswoman, Renee Shepherd, who lives in Felton, California. When I read about Renee Shepherd ( sponsoring an elementary school in Joneboro, Arkansas--and knew I was going to be spending about a month here in Arkansas with some time in between events--I thought it might be a good idea to go there and visit. I had read on Jim Long's blog (, another long-time herbal friend and author, who has a delightful herb farm in Blue Eye, Missouri, that he had been there to make salsa with the kids, so I contacted Melinda Smith to see if she'd be interested in another herbal program with the kids.

So we made a plan to go there last Thursday, and since it was a little farther than we had thought (3 hours in each direction), we contacted another herbal acquaintance, Amy Swann of Mill Creek Herbs in Pochahontas (, and asked if we might come there on Wednesday evening and stay over, so we'd only be about 45 minutes away the next morning. It was dark when we got there and Amy and her husband had unloaded a tractor trailer load of plants for their nursery that day, however she still made us a skillet full of yummy wild rice, veggies and tofu, for which we were very thankful.

We stayed up late to prepare an herbal syrup with the lemon thyme and lemon balm that we had harvested and brought along, and to this we added some gingerroot for zing and honey for sweetener. The plan was to show the children how to make a natural soda--with the cooled syrup, ice and sparkling water. We also brought herbs for making a cream cheese that they could taste on crackers and celery.

When Tina Marie Wilcox and I arrived at Health and Wellness Elementary School, we were met by Melinda Smith who is in charge of the kids' gardens and kitchen laboratory there, as well as a number of other jolly staff members. Melinda gave us a tour of the children's gardens, which are located in the courtyards in between buildings. The gardens are in raised beds--many of them were planted and showing green--and there are many concrete tables for the children to sit outdoors, and two small greenhouses, which were chockablock full with plants for their upcoming plant sale this weekend. All of this is hands on work done by the students. We met Amy Crain, who assists Melinda in the growing and cooking projects, not to mention the great crafts they create, and Amy took a number of the photos I have included in this article.

The students sow the seedlings, work the beds, create stepping stones, decorate pots and plant them, and make garden stools. They have 3 chickens--Minerva and silkies Fred and Ethel, a rabbit named Oreo, and numerous indoor creatures from lizards, a snake, a chinchilla and tarantula. Classrooms, hallways and the library are all bright and colorful spaces with items prepared by little hands in evidence everywhere.

Of course, the kitchen laboratory was my favorite place. It had small stainless tables for students to work at, and the sinks were at little kid level. The walls were adorned with paintings of bright fruits and vegetables, black-and white- striped awnings, and a multitude of small aprons. We placed little blue and lime green cutting boards and paring knives at each place and there were mini vases of herbs on each table. Besides Melinda and Amy, we had two other adult assistants, Neva and Elizabeth, both Master Gardener volunteers from the community.

The kids were abuzz with excitement, when they spilled into the kitchen classroom. We talked about kitchen safety with knives and then moved on to the business of herbs. We passed around oregano, parsley, fennel, which were going to be used in making our herb cream cheese along with garlic (; and we passed lemon thyme and lemon balm, which was used in our herbal syrup. We rubbed and smelled and tasted the herbs. And then we stemmed the herbs and chopped them. Everyone got to use the garlic presses and or the garlic grinders, and I took the mezzaluna around and demonstrated how to use it, so each child could have a turn with my favorite kitchen tool. The students stirred the cream cheese and herbs and then we got to spread them on crackers. Meanwhile we explained and demo'ed how we made the herb syrup with the herbs and gingerroot coins. We combined the syrup with the sparkling water and served it over ice, first toasting to good food and healthy food. Tina Marie finished the class with a song accompanied with her guitar.

I sure hope the kids had as much fun as we did. HWES is a great place, where learning is fun and hands-on. We hope to return there again. All of this was made possible by herbs--herbal networking from coast to coast--California and Maryland to down in the Arkansas! Thank you Health and Wellness Elementary School students and staff--y'all rock!

Be sure to check out our next exciting event at the Ozark Folk Center--the Medicinal Herb Seminar--April 5 and 6, 2013! (

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posted in: herbs, renee shepherd, herbes de provence, kids and herbs, health and wellness elementary school, herb syrup

Comments (15)

marystoops writes: nice all
Posted: 4:47 am on November 8th
nicholasporter2 writes: Truly inspiring!
Posted: 2:12 am on November 7th
deniserenatt writes: lovely
Posted: 12:16 am on November 3rd
lewisclayton7 writes: Creative work
Posted: 5:31 am on November 2nd
jacobtrex writes: Nice
Posted: 1:36 am on November 1st
sofiabell writes: nice all kids
Posted: 1:41 am on October 22nd
tonyjanes writes: Nice kids.
Posted: 11:07 pm on August 26th
karlhardy55 writes: Brilliant
Posted: 5:48 am on July 28th
jesushale writes: soo nice.
Posted: 5:54 am on March 3rd
DianaBoyce writes: intersting
Posted: 5:54 am on June 13th
CharlottBrown writes: like it
Posted: 6:09 am on May 22nd
CherylMays writes: nice project
Posted: 3:06 am on May 21st
Robzikshi writes: Nice work done
Posted: 2:58 am on May 21st
Barbarajhon writes: awesome work
Posted: 3:36 am on May 19th
MikeTheGardener writes: I teach a gardening class to pre-k students at the local school here by me and it is a lot of fun. They really get into it.

First we did an indoor project with peat pods. They loved how they expanded. We planted sunflower seeds in those.

Then we went outside to the school garden, where each child was given a tomato plant to plant, with a garden marker that had their name on it.

Fun, Fun, Fun!
Posted: 8:10 am on April 1st
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