Get kids gardening early at home, at school

Gardens are a great educational tool at home and school. The tactile and experiential learning experience children get from a garden wonderfully complements the classroom. The opportunity to get dirty, smell fresh herbs and compost, and taste new flavors teaches students to be active and inquisitive participants of the world in which they live.

At schools and teaching centers, blending garden-based lessons with classroom-based ones can make for a meaningful and lasting educational experience for students. Sustainable Food Center hosts hundreds of children a year through school field trips, summer camps and volunteer workdays. One of our favorite garden activities is to find, collect and sort plant parts, then discuss the role of each part. It’s a simple, active and tactile activity that lends itself well to further exploration in the classroom. The SFC Grow Local School Garden Activity Guide has many more ideas for easy, educational activities that can be done at home or school and can be purchased at

In addition to arts and sciences, research has shown that children who participate in growing their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat these healthy foods. In the garden, kids have the opportunity to be involved in every part of the plant life cycle, from seed to plate. If you’d like to initiate curiosity in your child about new fruits and vegetables through gardening, here are some tips:

Involve your child in planning the garden. From designing to planting, build the garden with your child. They’ll build a sense of ownership and accomplishment that will grow with the seeds that were planted.

Give your child responsibility. Children who actively engage in the garden will get more out of the experience. Simple tasks such as weeding or watering are wonderful ways that children can stay involved with the garden as plants are growing.

Create a recipe using garden produce. Planning a recipe using produce from the garden can be a great lesson in creativity, flavor and nutrition. Guide them in the recipe-making process and give them safe tasks when cooking.

Gardens can help students bridge the gap between growing fresh fruits and vegetables and enjoying them as part of a healthy diet. Austin Independent School District with support from SFC promotes garden and farm-fresh eating through a variety of approaches. The district has approximately 70 school-run gardens and six Garden to Café programs, where produce from the school garden is used in school meals during lunch. These Garden to Café programs are an excellent example of how school gardens can be utilized in many different ways. Additionally, the Austin school district recently promoted National School Lunch Week with farm-fresh produce through their districtwide veggie samplings. Chef Louis Ortiz, executive chef for Austin Independent School District, created the baba ganoush recipe featured below to introduce students to local produce and global flavors. Across the district, all eggplants for this recipe will be sourced from local farms. Try making it at home with your child to experiment with new garden-fresh veggies.

Baba Ganoush

1 eggplant, about 1 pound

7 oz. roasted red pepper, drained

3 cloves roasted garlic, approximately 1½ teaspoon

1 tablespoon and ½ teaspoon parsley

1½ tablespoon lime juice

½ tsp salt, plus sprinkle

Sprinkle of pepper

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse eggplant under cool water and remove the stem. Cut the eggplant into quarters and drizzle with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until eggplant is golden-brown.

While eggplant is roasting, place the roasted red peppers into a blender.

Add roasted garlic to the blender. Pulse the blender in short bursts so the peppers and garlic are chopped but not liquefied.

Remove the eggplant from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, remove skins.

Place roasted and peeled eggplant quarters into a large mixing bowl and add the red pepper and garlic mixture.

Add the chopped parsley, fresh lime juice, and salt. Mash mixture by hand with a potato masher until well-mixed.


Ten Thousand Villages hosts fair trade fundraiser

Ten Thousand Villages, which stocks goods made by artisans from around the world, is hosting a fair trade fundraiser to support its endeavors. The fundraiser will feature food, Cuban salsa music, live and silent auctions with trips to meet the artisans, and goods for sale as well as swag bags. “This fundraiser is our most critical event to keep Austin’s only 100% fair trade store open and to continue to empower artisans around the world,” said the store’s new executive manager, Whitney Coyle, in a press release.

Tickets are $50 in advance ( and $60 at the door. 7-10 p.m. Oct. 20. 4803 Burnet Road.


Cariloha store opens at the Domain Northside

Cariloha brings sustainable goods made from bamboo such as sheets and towels to Austin with its new store at the Domain Northside. The store also features mattresses, pillows, shirts, socks, undergarments and fitness wear.

Austin store owners Charles and Rebecca Burke first discovered Cariloha in Cozumel on vacation. “Bamboo regenerates naturally and is one of the most eco-friendly resources on the planet,” said Rebecca Burke in a press release. “It keeps our soil stronger, our air cleaner and our environment healthier. Not only is it 3 degrees cooler than cotton, it’s twice as soft and naturally repels odor and allergens.”

The store is located at 3211 Palm Way.


Austin woman develops seat belt for your purse

Kristine Palmer solved a problem. You’re in rush-hour traffic. You hit your brakes, and your purse, which was sitting on the seat beside you, goes flying through the air, spilling its content all over your car.

She developed MyBagBelt, which buckles your purse into the seat. You also can use it to secure laptops, groceries, diaper bags, anything that you don’t want moving around the car. When not in use, the belt can slide down to the crease of the seat and not be in the way of a person who might sit there.

The belts are $17.99 for the original one and $19.99 for a belt in different colors or patterns. Find them at


Hiatus Spa +Retreat donates to cancer treatment

Hiatus Spa + Retreat is offering a 20 percent discount to clients booking an essential service as a Spa for a Cause service. Then 20 percent of the purchase price of that Spa for a Cause service will go to the Peabody Fund: Cancer Vaccine Project. The Peabody fund is for Hiatus founder Kristin Peabody. She and nine other cancer patients are participating in a trial for a cancer vaccine at the University of California San Diego. The participants need to raise $1.1 million by Nov. 31 for the trial to take place.

You can book a Spa for a Cause service at Hiatus Spa + Retreat is at 1611 W. Fifth St., Suite 155.

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