Creating Sustainable Nutrition Through Education

Collaboration is more than the sum of the parts.

UI Agriculture Intern Maggie Maxstadt demonstrates how to handle a chicken.

What happens when you combine 2 school districts, 100 students, 6 teachers, 2 acres of rich soil, endless rainwater run-off, some friendly chickens, generous donors and CU Schools Foundation?


This fall, as part of our latest COLLABORATIVE GRANT, students from Edison Middle School and Urbana High School joined forces to plant crops, dig a pond, test soil, build solar distillation units, harvest water and make it potable for consumption, create Farm-to-Table menus and generate hands-on connections between scientific theory and practice. The project was titled Creating Sustainable Nutrition through Education and it involved educators Julie Anders and Karen Easton (Edison Middle School) and Kris Sherrick, Becky Weber, Joni White and Amanda Rosser (Urbana High School).

Collaboration across the community allows teachers to be innovative. When teachers collaborate across the districts, they multiply the possibilities. -Urbana School District Supt. Don Owen

Over the course of the fall semester, students participated in three field days where they worked side-by-side to learn about healthy plants, healthy soil, healthy water and healthy eating.

In class we work on labs and take notes, but this is more hands on experience. Because it was hands on, I learned quicker. When I was a kid, I used to mess around in my backyard. I used to dig holes and fill them with water and try to put frogs in them. This project allows me to put my imagination to work without getting into trouble. -Amir, Urbana High School student

Students built and painted picnic tables to provide a workstation to document their research. For many, this was first experience with a hammer or drill.

This is the first chance I’ve had to build. So much goes into building a table. There are lots of jobs here, and it makes it easier to be part of a team. -Amalie, Edison Middle School student

Students also made new connections to their food. On November 30th, five teams of students participated in a Chopped Challenge at Urbana High School. Each team created a dish using two types of greens from the UHS garden and an egg from the chickens at Fowler Farm. Their culinary achievements were judged by a team local experts.

V. Picasso’s Executive Chef Adam Shallenberger joined Harvest Market Dietitian Emily DuPuis and Land Connection’s directors Cara Cummings and Cassie Carroll to judge the Chopped Challenge.



Doing a Chopped Challenge taught all the kids that they can think on their feet, create something wonderful, and in the end, be winners at accomplishing a task. I absolutely loved the passion in some of the teams I witnessed today. It inspires me to think outside the box here at V. Picasso.” Adam Shallenberger, Executive Chef

This grant is complete, but the work will continue. Plans are underway for a spring open house to showcase the students’ work. With support from local businesses and donors, we hope Creating Sustainable Nutrition through Education will continue to grow for years to come.

The winning team for the Chopped Challenge included Ellyse Talavera, Souroja Sen and Genna Roth, all 8th graders at Edison Middle School. Their winning dish was a farm-to-table upgrade of Toad in a Hole. Here is a video of their winning presentation.