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D.C. Everest Senior High Students Introduce Second Graders to the Wonders of Ag and Food Sciences

Since the new Tech Ed wing and Culinary Lab opened in 2020, the D.C. Everest Senior High has invited younger DCE Evergreens to participate in hands-on lessons with DCE Senior High students. “Our new automotive tech, welding, woodworking, manufacturing, ag science and culinary labs replicate 21st century workplace environments,” notes DCE Career and Technical Education Coordinator Aaron Hoffman. “They’re spacious, light and filled with the latest technologies.” The Culinary Lab, for example, is home to industry-standard equipment that would be found in current foodservice operations. The AgriScience Lab features a vertical hydroponic garden where students grow lettuce, kale, herbs, strawberries, peas and more. “As a result, we have more DCE Senior High students interested in taking these courses and trying something new. By inviting younger students to the labs, we hope to inspire them — to show them what’s possible once they are a student here,” adds Hoffman.

Recently, second graders from Rothschild Elementary visited the AgriScience and Culinary Labs for a lesson in hydroponics, the importance of local agriculture, nutrition and food safety. In the Ag Science Lab, the DCE Senior High Plant Science students led the elementary students through a series of hands-on lessons and activities they had prepped in advance. The second graders learned about the art and science of hydroponic agriculture and how to harvest lettuce (which is served in DCE cafeterias), decorated pots and planted them with seeds for a take-home project and crafted tissue flowers. ”We like to make the most out of every opportunity to reach out to students of every age and share the high-tech growing system and resources with young people,” adds  John Glynn, AgriScience teacher. “Sharing the story of how food is produced today and how it could be produced in the future is key to having an educated consumer.”

In the Culinary Lab the secondary students shared lessons about nutrition, food safety and food prep while the elementary students frosted cookies — prepared in advance by the culinary students — and topped them with fresh fruit. “Teaching all students how to use locally sourced ingredients to provide for themselves and for their families is one of our main goals,” notes Mirand Ritger, Face and Consumer Education teacher. “Providing an emphasis on nutrient dense and healthy meals is one of the ways we can make an impact on all students’ lives while they are learning healthy habits that prepare them for their future.”

The interactive learning session is one of many hosted by the DCE Senior High and part of a larger initiative to provide students with opportunities to take what they learn in the classroom and share that knowledge with others, as well as apply those skills outside of the classroom. Since the new labs opened at the DCE Senior High, smaller mobile versions of hydroponic labs have cropped up at a number of the DCE elementary schools — an initiative that provides a continuum of lessons along the same vein as that provided at the secondary level. The school’s robust ag science curriculum includes forestry, large and small animal sciences, introduction to veterinary medicine, small engines and power sports (two courses that allow students to learn about the basics of equipment repairs and maintenance) and plant science courses. Many students enrolled in these courses also participate in FFA and lead the annual fourth grade field trips at a local dairy farm where they teach the elementary students about where their food comes from and career opportunities available in the ag science field.

As for the Culinary Lab, the new space has vastly expanded opportunities for students to advance their culinary skills. Today, more culinary courses are available, students can tackle more challenging recipes, learn from real-world chefs who visit the lab and acquire skills and certifications that set them apart from their peers. DCE students can earn a ServSafe Certificate by completing the school’s nationally recognized curriculum created by the National Restaurant Association. Just as importantly, they can acquire important life skills and learn how to cook health-minded meals in a safe manner. Students also prepare cuisines from around the globe, which broadens their exposure to diverse flavors, ingredients, cultures and traditions. The students often prepare meals and baked goods that are donated to community organizations and frequently cater events hosted by the District. 

During the second graders’ visit a DCE senior who is an enthusiastic ambassador for the school’s Youth Apprenticeship initiative and construction program stopped by the Ag Science Lab and visited with the elementary students. While talking to one of the second graders, she learned about his interest in construction and asked one of the instructors if she could show the young boy the woodworking lab — the very space that inspired her to become a Youth Apprentice in the field. And off they went — all smiles. Ultimately, by providing DCE Senior High students with the opportunity to mentor others and apply their skill sets outside of the classroom, they not only play a role in inspiring young Evergreens but in providing important services to the community.