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Students Excel in Culinary Arts and Gardening

Ackerman students transplant flower and vegetable starts in the school's garden.

May 12, 2023 - As the weather gets warmer and the grass gets greener, students and staff at Ackerman School anxiously await restarting the seasonal culinary arts and gardening programs. 

“The question isn’t what are we doing in art when it gets warmer,” said Jason Betancourt, instructor of the programs. “The question is always when are we going outside.”

Students were introduced to cooking and gardening last year in an effort to learn how to grow their own food and incorporate herbs and spices into family meals. Since then, students have become amateur chefs who are seasoning, marinating, and slicing meat and produce with little to no assistance. 

“I love it and I like how the teachers are teaching us how to cook so we know how to do it when we get older,” said Brittany Morrow, a fifth grader. “I’m learning how to make Cesar salad, grilled chicken, and green beans all while making memories with my friends.” 

Seventh-grader Gioboni Johnson knows all too well how to work together with his classmates to cook a delicious meal that everyone can indulge in afterwards. He’s previously made cowboy caviar, mashed potatoes, and chicken wrapped in bacon with his peers.  

“Next I want to learn how to make an impossible whopper,” he said, referring to using Impossible Burger protein to make a Burger King-type sandwich. “I’ve always wanted to know how they make that.” 

He also admits to having a sweet tooth. 

“Today, the class made cookie s'mores for dessert. I didn’t try one yet but I can already taste it,” said Johnson. 

Foods that students have grown in the garden include basil, blueberries, sweet banana peppers, hot habanero peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes. Flowers that are growing include petunias and sedum mexicanum. 

“We emphasize gardening plants that heighten students' senses of sight, taste, smell, and touch,” said Speech-Language Pathologist Jamie Klupe. “We have raised beds so students who use wheelchairs or are non-ambulatory can participate too. It’s an inclusive program for everybody and a sensory experience that they don’t get often in a classroom setting.” 

Betancourt would like to thank Forest Relief for donating trees and shrubs, along with Principal Lisa Leonard-Sneed, Assistant Principal Jody Romeo, and maintenance staff. 

“All of them back me 100 percent and help me fundraise in whatever ways that are needed. It takes a village to raise a garden and I appreciate everyone's support.”