May 16, 2022 - For nearly a year, Ackerman School staff have been revamping an unused outdoor space behind the school. In May, it officially opened to the school community as the Ackerman Outdoor Pavilion.
“After working with the grounds department, both principals, and my colleagues, we came up with a plan to grow herbs, vegetables, and plants and to teach students how to grow and cook their own food,” said teacher Jason Betancourt.
The space features a grill, sink, refrigerator, vertical plant wall, greenhouse storage, and rolling planter beds, for accessibility. Betancourt’s goal is to have a class use the garden once a week and teach them how to cook.
“We can teach the adults too,” said Betenacourt. “Not everyone knows how to do this. Even though our school is K-8, 7th and 8th grade students should know how to cook food rather than going to the store and buying a bag of candy or chips.”
Olivia Owens and Orian Ward-Fagon were the first two Ackerman students to use the new pavilion. During their lesson, they cooked cheeseburgers and corn on the grill and made a pineapple slaw as an appetizer. All of the food was locally grown. They learned about food prep, cross contamination, food safety, and the timing of food. Betancourt selected them because they showed a lot of interest in learning a new skill.
“I tried to finish my math work as fast as I could to do this,” said 8th grader Orian. “I’d say Olivia and I are having a pretty fun time.”
“I didn’t really cook at home, so I was really excited to cook,” said Olivia. “I also like helping others.”
Bentenacourt has over 20 years of restaurant experience and is eager to pass along what he has learned to his students. Creating the garden is a project that is near and dear to his heart.
“Not everyone at Ackerman is going to go off to college, but every student here needs to know how to eat and cook.”
For more information about the Ackerman Outdoor Pavilion, email Jason Betancourt at JABetancourt@ssdmo.org.