MRHS Culinary Arts teacher creates garden kitchen classroom
With the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating changes to her program and practices, Caroline Freitas, the Culinary Arts & Nutrition teacher at Monomoy Regional High School and the Monomoy Regional School District K-12 Wellness Coordinator, has been exploring remote, hybrid, and in-person models for delivering her hands-on curriculum. Safe food handling and kitchen safety were always mainstays of her classes, but keeping students and staff safe from COVID-19 in a kitchen classroom setting is a game changer.
With a goal of giving students a fun and unique experience learning the basics of food preparation while tapping into the joy of cooking and enjoying food, Freitas decided to meet the needs of the current situation by moving the cooking outdoors. As learning and teaching outdoors is considered a safer approach, this would allow her to continue her programs in a modified format.
There are 10 raised garden beds at Monomoy Regional High School that are tended to and utilized by Monomoy students and teachers in a variety of ways. The garden connects students to the entire process of planning, planting, caring for, and enjoying the “fruits of their labor.” It teaches important lessons about working together as a team, perseverance (addressing the unpredictable challenges of nature), and time spent unplugged.
For example, Freitas has worked collaboratively with the World Language Department to research the purchase of seeds from different Latinx countries, and with the Visual & Performing Arts Department to have students use the garden space to sketch “en plein air.”
Students in Monomoy’s Special Education programs have been a particular support for the project and have been a key component in the development of the garden. A group of students who are on a 12-month education plan have been integral in keeping the beds watered over the hot summer months. These students work on plant vs. weed identification, handling and directing the hose, and proper use of gardening tools.
Freitas hopes to be able to teach her Culinary Arts students to cook outdoors featuring various grilling and smoking techniques. Thanks to a grant from the American Culinary Federation Cape Cod & the Islands Chef’s Association, Freitas will be able to purchase equipment to expand the outdoor kitchen and allow students to prepare meals outdoors, using ingredients they have grown.
The ACF Cape Cod & the Islands Chefs Association provides relevant resources and logistical support for chefs and chef partners. Most importantly, the Chapter offers a sense of community meant to inspire professionalism and camaraderie among local chefs. Education and giving back to the industry is a longstanding part of the organization’s mission.
This project will impact more than 150 high school students throughout this school year, plus many more in the years to come. While the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges, it has also allowed innovative teachers like Caroline Freitas to introduce new and exciting possibilities for her students.