Bailey Gaskins and Flint Gervais, two 14-year-old eighth graders, learned more than the importance of crop rotation and soil health in their agriculture class at Escalante Middle School.
The pair, joined by about a dozen other students in their cohort, studied community needs and the importance of volunteering to make Durango a better place for everyone.
The cohort spent the last two weeks of their nine-week ag class learning about community work and the role of nonprofits, which culminated with students making sandwiches and helping prepare food for the cooks at Manna soup kitchen.
“I learned you could do a lot to help your community by volunteering. A little bit of work by a group of people can really improve things,” Bailey said.
Flint said by helping Manna’s cooks, he gained knowledge about how to properly and safely handle food, and his work helped the community and its homeless population.
In their classroom kitchen they chopped vegetables for Manna’s cooks and assembled sandwiches for Manna’s pickup lunches.
Using the school’s classroom kitchen allowed Manna to minimize the number of people in its own kitchen and helped Manna maintain stricter kitchen operating procedures to reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.
Ag teacher Lu Boren said she likes teaching about the power of volunteering, but struggled this year as nonprofits across the country are adhering to stricter standards for interactions with their volunteers.
Escalante’s classroom kitchen was ideal in providing the needed extra space and equipment so students could still help at Manna without burdening the soup kitchen’s facilities.
“I can’t believe how fast they were able to chop up two huge boxes of vegetables,” Boren said. “We put them in plastic bags for Manna’s kitchen to use for their meals.”
Besides the chopped vegetables, the students made turkey and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
Bailey said the importance of donating food to food pantries was another big takeaway for her.
“Sometimes, they don’t have as much food as they need,” she said.
Overall, Boren said the class met her objective: “My goal was to get the kids thinking of people other than themselves.”