Cross-age farm to school lessons continued at Turkey Valley despite pandemic

May 21, 2021

by Natalie Schneiter and Teresa Wiemerslage

Woman in mask at table with cups of yogurt.
Nurse Natalie with local yogurt, honey and oats to share with students.

For several years now, Turkey Valley schools in northeast Iowa have participated in a farm to school cross-age teaching program. Teams of high school students lead lessons for elementary students featuring foods from local farms and businesses. Thanks to generous donations from the Turkey Valley Education Foundation, this program has continued to be a classroom favorite of both the bigs and the littles! 

School nurse Natalie Schneiter leads the group. She worried when COVID hit that the program would end due to the segregation of student age groups. But with some work, Nurse Natalie and the cross-age student teachers found a way to make the monthly lessons happen. 

Adjusting for social distance

Three high school girls in masks on video call.
High school students taught monthly local food lessons to elementary students via video call.

The biggest challenge was that the high school students were not able to go into the lower elementary classrooms to deliver the lesson and help serve the taste-tests. The students made a video of their lessons instead. Each month, Nurse Natalie would print their entire script in large writing on colored paper.  Then she would set up her cell phone to record the students teaching the monthly lesson. 

Nurse Natalie made sure each of the first through third grade classrooms watched the lesson and received their monthly taste test. The students shared any leftovers with the cross-age teachers. Just this year, Turkey Valley lower elementary students were able to taste test an awesome variety of local foods. They included apples, cauliflower, carrots and hummus, beef sticks, yogurt with granola and honey, pumpkin muffins, microgreens, spinach and radishes!

Teresa Wiemerslage, farm to school field specialist, wrote the lessons the high school students used each month. Wiemerslage worked with the Iowa Food Hub in Decorah to source and deliver the foods from 12 area farms and businesses.