About Middle School Careers and the “Farm to Fork” Program
Every Friday, Middle School Students at the Greensboro Montessori School participate in a hands-on experiential education program in which they work together in all aspects of preparing a meal for 40+ people in our certified Kitchen. Their self run business is called Maria’s Cafe.
Each student cycles through a “career.” There are three careers – research and development (R&D,) farm, and restaurant. Within each career there are chances to specialize and hone in on interests and talents, as well as to learn about the overall functioning of the business. As students mature and they feel drawn to one career or another, they can submit resumes for a chance to be an apprentice or a master in a specific career.
In R&D students specialize in committees including finance, marketing, outreach, and lab and product development. The finance committee processes receipts for ingredients and materials, analyzes operation costs, and presents findings on net profits. In Marketing they create order forms to reserve food on Fridays, conduct surveys to find out how “customers” find the dining experience. Outreach communicates with members in and out of the school community, such as local foods vendors like Deep Roots and the Greensboro Farmers Market, parents, other students, and staff. And finally in lab and product development, students are working to create a moveable alphabet with our new 3D printer to sell to other Montessori Schools and within our school. They are also conducting labs to deal with problems, such as controlling Bermuda grass organically and what the best type of hive is for our honeybees.
In farm, students participate in all aspects of growing the food and getting it to the table. They plant seeds, build greenhouse platforms, harvest and wash vegetables and deliver them fresh to the kitchen (very, very fresh,) take inventory on garden produce and plan for future crops, maintain the bee hives, cut flowers and make bouquets to sell to local vendors, and learn about local agriculture, different methods of growing food and how each affects our planet, and help to plan future menus based on what is growing seasonally. They also decorate our tables with nature inspired settings. Many of the ingredients in these recipes came directly from the GMS gardens, especially whole unprocessed foods like garlic, onions, the salad greens, eggplant, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, persimmons, apples, figs, crab apples, butternut squash, tomatoes, and much more. We used no genetically modified ingredients (GMO’s) and part of our mission is to understand what is happening to our food system and how we can play our part to fix it. What better way to learn to be a global responsible citizen?
In restaurant, students chop, julienne, emulsify, grate, and learn new skills every week as they prepare the meal, and clean up afterwards. They gain much culinary expertise and are held to professional restaurant rules. They are learning about industrial equipment and processes as well and are inspected by the Health Department 3 times per year. They learn knife and food safety as well as quick methods for peeling and chopping garlic and onions and how to work with the best and freshest ingredients to make a delicious meal.
The entire middle school has a vested interest in all aspects of this program, and it is a pleasure to see them working in this Montessori Erdkinder real world scenario.
To find Maria’s Cafe recipes visit the recipe page.