Standing at a crowded table in the school cafeteria, with barely enough room to move her arms, Kaylee Nava, 7, is trying something new.
With a freshly harvested carrot in one hand, the little girl carefully uses a sharp peeler to scrape off the vegetable’s skin.
She just learned how to do this kitchen technique but already seems like an old pro.
“It’s easy,” she said.
Meanwhile, other second-graders at Davenport’s McKinley Elementary School work on tearing dark-green kale leaves, which they harvested Monday on a field trip to Brockway Farms in Pleasant Valley.
The end result: Carrot and kale chips, prepared and cooked Tuesday by about 65 students with the help of volunteer chef Robert Lewis, known as “The Happy Diabetic.”
They participated in preparing, cooking and tasting the healthful snacks, which principal Corri Guy said goes along with their work in McKinley’s “Farm-to-School” garden plot on school grounds.
McKinley’s garden was started last school year to teach students how their food is grown.
The cooking activity also fits well with the district’s second-grade curriculum, which calls for students to write a “how-to” essay about a process. Second-grade teacher Janet Parker said that’s exactly what the school’s three second-grade classes will do, focusing on how to make kale and carrot chips.
“Students are actively doing the activity, which will help them remember the steps,” Parker said. “Last year, we had apples and helped them make apple crisp. It’s a lot of fun.”
This was a two-day process for the group, starting with Monday’s field trip, where students harvested organic kale Brockway Farms donated for the project. Students harvested the carrots from their school garden, with the help of parent volunteers.
When it was taste-test time, the volunteer chef — married to Buchanan Elementary School principal Cindy Lewis — reminded the group that it’s important to try new foods, even if you think you won’t like them.
“You never know what you might like,” Lewis said.
That’s when 7-year-old Kiefer Priest jumped out of his seat, declaring he had something to say.
“I had no clue it was going to taste like that,” Kiefer said about the kale chips. “And it was delicious.”