Children learn the value of food

HARLINGEN — How do you stretch a few dollars into a meal?

Carmelo Martinez spent Saturday afternoon doing just that. The Lee Means Elementary fourth grader had $5 to spend at the Harlingen Farmer’s Market. It was an activity developed by Felix Rodriguez as part of the school’s Learn Grow Eat GO project.

“I like that we got to go around and see all these different fruits,” said Carmelo, 9. “We purchased pumpkins and tomatoes. There were different kinds of pumpkins.”

“One of them is Seminole pumpkin, the subtropical version,” said Justin West, 38. He’d pulled vegetables for the market at his Harlingen home.

He picked up an odd looking green vegetable and introduced it as a kohlrabi.

“Carmelo, when we get to school you can plant some in the garden,” said Rodriguez, who teaches fourth grade at Lee Means.

Rodriguez has spent the year helping the school’s fourth graders apply their classroom learning to real life experiences. This experience, also called authentic learning, involves planting a garden, cultivating it and then preparing and cooking the produce.

Rodriguez decided the children could also benefit from learning how to spend $5 efficiently on produce at the Harlingen Farmer’s Market.

“They’ll be adding and subtracting,” he said earlier in the day.

“They’ll budget,” he said. “They’ll subtract down or add up.”

Later that day he watched with satisfaction as they moved down the street, surrounded by live music, a gentle afternoon breeze and table after table of produce.

“They are doing well,” he nodded. “It’s amazing, amazing.”

Some of the kids had engaged in some wheeling and dealing.

“I talked them down a little bit,” said Carolina Kortan, 9, who purchased Brussels sprouts and yellow cauliflower.

“I bartered,” she said. “I liked talking about fruits and vegetables.”

She also enjoyed making purchases to support local farmers. Obviously, it was mutually beneficial for everyone involved.