A Pre-K student makes a beak with his hands as he learns about chickens in an LHA distance garden lesson.

When schools closed in March 2020, our team went to work to find new ways to keep students and families connected to school gardens and good food, provide social and emotional support, and reinforce academic concepts. At the time of this writing (early fall, 2020) our schools are doing both distance AND in-person learning, and ESYNOLA staff is supporting in a variety of ways. Here’s a
little bit about the lot of things we have been up to:

Capacity-Building Projects
  • Our teaching staff created videos (cooking demos, gardening videos, calming techniques, and read-alouds) that were shared with students and families. A few of our videos from this time are viewable here
  • Chef educators created ESYNOLA Recipe Collections. Read more on those here, and download the collections here for free
  • Garden educators created a gardening resource for families to create their own home gardens. 
  • Department heads and lead educators have been revising curriculum using an antiracist lens and have developed onboarding materials for new staff.
Family Food Support Initiatives 
  • Several educators helped with school meal distribution as part of a city-wide effort by New Orleans Public Schools to feed families. 
  • ESYNOLA garden produce was delivered to families with school meals and donated to a community feeding program run by Cattail Cooks. 
  • In the spring, a $50,000 gift enabled ESYNOLA staff to work with Communities in Schools, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Apple Bus to coordinate the FirstLine Schools Family Support Program. This 8-week program delivered weekly boxes of food and household supplies to 60 families experiencing food insecurity.
Distance Learning Support
  • Several garden and chef educators are collaborating with academic teachers to provide virtual ESYNOLA experiences to do science integration in the form of garden demonstrations, experiments, scavenger hunts, virtual field trips to school gardens in our network, read-alouds, and more. 
  • We will soon host virtual special events for families such as a Virtual Family Food Night. 
  • A few garden teachers are supporting academic classes in distance learning; they are teaching classes, helping families with tech issues, supporting English language learners, and taking attendance. 
  • With FirstLine Schools’ implementation of Social Emotional Learning blocks at the beginning of each school day, ESYNOLA teachers are leveraging their SEL knowledge and experience to support this initiative with academic teachers. ESY teachers are leading team building activities, guiding discussions of emotions through trauma-informed strategies, and leading breathing and calming techniques. They are also training academic teachers on the use of opening and closing rituals to promote consistency in the virtual school day. 
In-Person Teaching
  • With the return to in-person learning for some of our students, ESYNOLA teachers are returning to in-person garden and kitchen classes. We have developed detailed procedures for handwashing, sanitation, transitions, and tool use to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Our educators are already seeing classes for enrichment in the garden and kitchen at two schools, and our educator at Ashe will be offering special garden and culinary Friday experiences, doing horticultural therapy pull-outs, and engaging students in the garden and kitchen through various clubs. 
  • Three of our educators are teaching in-person classes at the Louisiana Children’s Museum in a special partnership for our Pre-K and Kindergarten students from Langston Hughes Academy. These classes will utilize the museum’s garden for garden class.
  • Several sites are planning drive-through events later this semester as a way of getting local, seasonal food to families, connecting them to local farmers and garden educators, and letting them see the school garden from a safe distance. 
  • Finally, all this is balanced with caring for our four prolific school gardens to ensure that they remain beautiful, safe, welcoming, and productive, as always. 
Langston Hughes Academy garden harvest in spring of 2020, ready for packaging and distribution with school meals
Fresh food box from Second Harvest for the Family Support Program
Food (and flowers) for a Virtual Family Food Night event ready for delivery.
Setup for virtual seed-starting experience