Hello! My name is Margarita Gonzalez and I had the opportunity to serve as an Americorps Food Educator with Common Threads Farm in Bellingham, Washington. Common Threads focuses on food and garden education, mainly with kids, through garden lessons in the spring and fall, cooking lessons in the winter and camps in the summer.

I was very nervous when I first started and I had no idea what to expect or how I was going to manage my senior year of high school, soccer and service while also finding time for myself. I quickly found myself being able to do all of that and enjoying every bit of it. 

During the transition from winter to spring, I had the opportunity to teach some garden lessons at my school garden, Kendall Elementary. The program was created for 6th graders at the three elementary schools in the Mount Baker school district so that they could get to know each other before entering Junior High. This was my first experience working with and teaching kids. I was so nervous and no matter how much planning went into these lessons, I didn’t feel ready. With the help of Olivia, another Food Educator who was co-teaching with me, and the environmental educators, we cleaned up the garden and got it ready for planting.

The kids were always super excited to get to work in the garden, no matter what the weather was. They enjoyed learning about the benefits of sheet mulching pathways in the garden, companion plants, and the importance of pruning apple trees and raspberry plants – our gardening journey was an exceptional one. These kids were a great group to have had as an introduction to teaching and working with kids. They were always willing to put in the work and make the garden as welcoming as possible. It was great to see the garden transform from its dormant winter stage, to a blossoming colorful garden in early spring. 

The transition from spring to summer programming was quick. The first week of summer programming was the second week of June and 3 days after I graduated from high school! Common Threads helped feed the kids of migrant farmworkers at the Jake and Curt MaBerry living camps. The program was titled Viviendo Bien. I, along with a few other Food Educators, served summer breakfast and lunch to kids in the Jake Camp.

That first week was not as successful as we had hoped. Some families had not arrived yet, and the kids were still shy around us so they would quickly get food and go back into their cabins. The second week we went back was at the end of July, so about a month had passed since they had seen us. The shyness and reluctance to see us was still there, but there were more kids this time. They had become friends with each other and they would come together. We slowly got to know each other, by asking them questions about their favorite activities and what foods they liked. By the end of that week, we had learned almost all of their names and they were excited to play games with us and do different activities. They would enjoy their lunch and take home leftovers then quickly come back out and start to plan out what games we were going to be playing.

On the third and final week that we were going to be there, they had started helping us cook and prep the different veggies that would be in their lunch. As a group we would all cook breakfast and lunch, depending on the food item they could also make it themselves! Their favorite things to do with us were cut up veggies, stir the pot, make friendship bracelets and play tag. I am grateful that I was able to get to know and play with them. They became more confident in their abilities to be in the kitchen and use kitchen utensils. The change in those three weeks that we were there was incredible. They were yet another great group of kids that made me more comfortable teaching. 

Serving at Common Threads allowed me to make connections with so many different and unexpected people. I am grateful for getting to know all the wonderful and amazing people along this journey. Whether they know it or not, they helped shape me into a better person. I think through this experience I learned a lot about my teaching and learning style, and to be understanding of others’ styles as well. These experiences will always live with me as most of them were firsts.