Salad Party in the School Garden!

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Students look forward to the end-of-year salad party, when they can eat the produce they have worked so hard to grow in the school garden.


Gateway Greening’s “Power of Growing Food” was exemplified at Shaw VPA’s end of year salad party in the school garden. After a St. Louis spring of unusual weather, planting and replanting crops that did not make it due to weather or friends that live in the garden, watering and weeding, the 2nd graders at Shaw VPA finally gained a full harvest out of all of their diligence and hard work.


Harvesting for the Salad Party

Students harvested produce they had cultivated in the school garden to create their salads.

A running theme discussed with students at Shaw VPA throughout the school year was the parts and functions of a plant. The end result was that by this spring, instead of just harvesting a specific crop, the students were asked to harvest different plant parts from their crops. When asked to pick a plant part that they’d like to eat, the students exclaimed “seeds!” and “fruit!” before heading for the peas! They have been watching the life cycle of the peas closely for Gateway Greening’s First Peas to the Table Challenge. Students are instructed to harvest the most plump pea pods. The peas always end up a favorite because they soon realize the author of First Peas to the Table, Susan Gribsby, says, the peas are as sweet as candy.

After harvesting their peas, the students wanted to add flowers to their salads. To continue with observing the life cycle of a plant and encourage pollinators in our garden, we have allowed one section of our radishes to flower. Radish flowers, as one student describes, taste like sweet, spicy broccoli and made for a great addition to the salad.

Staying with the radishes, students went underground to the next plant part, roots. I’m always surprised by how willing the students are to try anything and how much they love radishes!

At this point, we were missing a big ingredient to our salad: leaves of course! As a group we found that the lettuce had formed perfect heads, and then tried different methods of harvesting the lettuce. In the end, the students attempted the cut and come method, just taking a leaf here and there as I assisted by harvesting an entire head.     


Clean-up in the School Garden is a Snap!

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Clean up after the salad party was a snap, with second graders lining up for a chance to clean their dishes.

Once the students had thoroughly rinsed their harvest, they each tore up their own ingredients into bite sized pieces, tasting each item as they added it to their bowl. At this point I usually hear some requests for ranch dressing during our yearly salad party. To encourage the student to try new things, I  prepared a simple Vinaigrette dressing in advance. (Equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with a shake of salt and pepper!) The students are always adventurous, taking a little taste at first before realizing it tastes pretty good! Usually they end up requesting more. By the end of the year, these kids have some refined pallets.   

After eating, any leftovers are taken to the compost bin. Not much was added to the compost bin after the salad party, the salad was such a hit. All that was left were dirty dishes, and that was quickly resolved by making a tub of soapy water. The second graders washed and rinsed their dishes before stacking them neatly.

Having a salad party allowed the students to truly get a chance to admire and enjoy all of their hard work from start to finish, seed to table.


Written by Meg Holmes, Youth Educator at Gateway Greening


Need quick tips on what (and how) to harvest for a salad party in your school garden this May? Check out this short video – This Week in the School Garden: Salad Party!


Looking for more ways to incorporate the school garden into your lesson plan? Stop by:

  • Gateway Greening’s Workshops for Educators page to explore monthly workshops that address the challenges and opportunities represented by teaching in school gardens
  • The Gateway Greening Educators Facebook group to connect with other teachers throughout St. Louis with similar interests in school gardens
  • Check out our In the School Garden Youtube playlist for short, actionable how-to videos that are seasonally relevant.