THE FULL CIRCLE AT SHERWOOD MONTESSORI
At Sherwood Montessori Charter School, located in a quiet west Chico neighborhood near Bidwell Park, smiling kindergartners and middle schoolers work side by side, digging their hands deep into beds of lettuce, snap peas, and herbs.
In support of a hands-on curriculum, this K-8 public charter school is giving students the opportunity to know their food as intimately as their traditional school subjects. The school and garden have been around just shy of a year, but already, students have been featured in newspapers, won a salsa competition, and were recognized as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Chefs Move to Schools!” initiative and Partnership for a Healthier America (part of the national “Let’s Move!” campaign). This program partners chefs with schools, where they work with school staff to create healthy meal plans and teach students about the importance of nutrition. Sherwood Montessori was awarded $2000 worth of safe, easy to use cookware including All-Clad, Anchor Hocking, T-fal (an Actifry air fryer that makes a kilo of French fries with only one tablespoon of oil), and more, and the kids have put it all to use.
The Pick-Wash-Eat program is under the guidance of Richard Hirshen, warmly referred to as “Chef Richie,” who is working with the school to bring the benefits of the garden to fruition. The cycle “runs from seeds to starts, to greenhouse, to the garden, to the time of harvest, to cooking, eating, selling food at our own farmers’ market,” says Richie. “The students have a hand in it all.”
What they do at Sherwood Montessori goes far beyond the garden gate and out into the community. These kids are entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Every day the students rotate between working in the garden and trying out recipes in the kitchen with Chef Richie. The food they prepare is sold at their school’s farmers’ market, held every other Friday at 3pm. They make a range of seasonal, organic, and vegetarian dishes using produce from their garden, some from local farms, such as Pyramid Farms (they subscribe to its CSA), and some that they glean from school families. Profits go to R.A.D.—Recreation and Dreams for Children with Cancer.
The students have created delightful writing projects around the garden work, as well as a newsletter, and now a cookbook, released on June 14. A project of the grade 6–8 students, the cookbook includes proven recipes with titles ranging from “A” to “Z.” Called Smart Garden…Full Circle Program for Young Gardeners and Chefs, the book is available through Chef Richie at Sherwood Montessori. Go to the school’s web site, sherwoodmontessori.org, for contact and ordering information. At press time the cost of the book had tentatively been set at $10 per copy, plus the cost of shipping, if not picked up in person.
Even though school is soon ending, Chef Richie, along with school staff, is offering a summer camp for children ages 4–14 at the school. Based on a per day schedule that’s convenient for parents, the camp runs Monday–Friday, 8:30 am–5:30 pm, June 20–August 19. Parents pay only for the hours their students are at camp at the rate of $4 per hour, per child. Kids will enjoy gardening, cooking, arts and crafts, hiking, sports and games, drama, music and storytelling, Spanish classes, and more.
For information, email Chef Richie, Richie@sherwoodmontessori.org or phone 530.828.8890.