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The student news site of Harwood Union Middle/High School in South Duxbury, Vermont

Common Ground

The student news site of Harwood Union Middle/High School in South Duxbury, Vermont

Common Ground

What’s Cooking in Harwood’s Transition Room?

Photo Credit: Jack Adair

Sizzling, rustling, mixing, and the aroma of fresh-baked chocolate zucchini cakes floating into the hallway as students work hard at refining their cooking skills. In Harwood’s student kitchen, better known as the Transition Room, learning isn’t just about studying the chemistry of cooking, it’s also about understanding the chemistry of the mind.

Harwood’s Developing Sustainable Habits (DSH) class, facilitated by Heidi Turgeon-Baird, was previously located in a generic desk-and-chair highschool classroom, which heavily impacted productivity and student opportunities. The class has since been relocated to the Transition Room, which holds many cooktops, ovens, and suitable workspaces for students who are interested in cooking. For the first time ever, the class is now available for all high school students, whereas it used to only include middle schoolers.

In the DSH class, students learn a multitude of new skills, including, but not limited to, general cooking knowledge, kitchen safety, and mindfulness. “There’s so many skills that students are learning, working on the craft of being precise with measurements, how to use basic tools that work with food processing, collaboration, communication, learning about different types of foods, or cultures that go with that,” Heidi says. Students who take the class are graded on active engagement, integrative thinking, personal and global engagements as it relates to showing respectful behaviors, maintaining a sustainable and healthy lifestyle, and producing quality work.

Just like any ordinary class, DSH is funded through the Connected Learning department, and is heavily associated with Vermont’s Farm to School network. One of the goals of the class is to integrate the Harvest of The Month into the foods prepared, while utilizing a network of Vermont farmers to acquire locally sourced food. According to Heidi, “Ideally, our food would come within a 150 mile radius of Harwood to be considered local. This year, we are actually sourcing our food with the Vermont Farm Network”. The goal isn’t just about having high quality food, it’s also about making sure that everyone has access to said food, as stated by Heidi, “It’s not always just about finding the high-quality nutritious, organic, local food, but more importantly making sure that students have access, all students have access to high quality, nutritious food that they can also prepare at the homefront.”

Though the practice of physical health is a great part of DSH class, students also practice the habit of maintaining good mental health. Students partake in activities based on mindfulness as a way to reflect on themselves, along with becoming focused and present in the moment. According to Heidi, “We typically start our classes out with a transitional moment of mindfulness to become aware and fully present in the here and now. Students are practicing trying to be present in the moment, and also it’s a tool for reducing our overall stress and helping us feel more empowered as individuals.”

An additional goal of the DSH class is to hone in on the ideas and concepts of sustainability, and practicing them in everyday life. According to Heidi, “Another component of the DSH class focuses on the global goals of sustainability created by the United Nations, and so we try to apply [and] implement habits and practices that are sustainable through the individual for a lifetime.” The aforementioned goals are a list of seventeen objectives created by the United Nations that promote sustainable development, including but not limited to gender equality, eliminating poverty, and enabling access to clean and drinkable water. The practice of these objectives helps students become more aware and mindful of the actions they commit.

Though the idea of solving problems within our communities applies to Harwood, the support for the community expands far beyond Harwood’s walls too. The DSH class has continuously provided support to the community by making healthy and nutritious foods available for those in need. As Heidi stated, “We made 350 dinner rolls for the Waitsfield Senior Center, so it’s those little pieces where we’re able to get back out into the community, whether it’s immediate or beyond the walls.” 

But the DSH class is facing a challenge: A lack of space. Due to the exceptionally high popularity of the class, space is rapidly filled, leaving a multitude of students feeling disappointed that they were not able to take DSH. As said by Heidi, “We could blow this class out five blocks a day, four blocks a day for sure and fill it with more than 12 students every day, for every class. I believe so. And feedback I get from students is that they want more of it, so that’s why we created the highschool class.” Although increasing the number of available slots per class period is an option, it would be a challenging solution due to the limited amount of space and tools within the transition room. Though, there is a plus. Even if students don’t get into a DSH class, they can still opt to take any one of the offered ELO blocks that are available for all to sign up for. Undoubtedly, the transition room is a useful, bustling workplace that makes a difference at Harwood.

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