Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


Why food education?

Because gardening and cooking in schools:

  • Enriches classroom-based learning across the academic curriculum, making many abstract concepts more concrete
  • Builds community within the school and within the surrounding community
  • Supports healthy eating habits through positive seed-to-table experiences
  • Promotes environmental stewardship and makes sustained outdoor education affordable and accessible

Why partner with Common Threads?

Common Threads Food Educators support good teaching and learning through hands-on gardening and cooking.  Most activities take place during the school day, with options also for after-school clubs. Learning opportunities span science, math, literacy, history, geography, and nutrition, with an emphasis on:

  1. Soil Health and Structure
  2. Plant Anatomy and Function
  3. Ecosystems and Environmental Stewardship
  4. Nutrition/Adventurous Eating
  5. Teamwork/Life Skills

School gardens, though easy to start, are more challenging to sustain over time in ways that support teachers and enhance student learning.  Gardening and cooking with kids require planning time and equipment resources that most teachers cannot realistically invest without the trained support of a Food Educator.

What resources does Common Threads offer?

Human Resources

Common Threads places an AmeriCorps Food Educator in each partner school. The Food Educator’s work includes:

  • Bi-weekly garden classes, aligned with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) for each child in each grade at partner schools during Fall & Spring
  • 4 classroom cooking sessions for each classroom during Winter months
  • After-school cooking classes at Title 1 schools
  • Summer time gardening support (engaging families in tending school gardens so that kids return to robust gardens in the Fall)
  • Family focused cooking and eating events at Title 1 schools

Physical Resources

Mobile Cooking Cart

Each Food Educator has access to materials for food tasting and preparation activities, and can come prepared to cook with a classroom of up to 30 students.  Increasingly, schools are choosing to invest in their own cooking carts, which Common Threads can help to plan for and assemble.

Coordination of Donated Resources

Common Threads’ network of community partners support school gardens with donated materials, including seeds, starts, compost, and wood chips.  We are not always able to meet all of each school’s material needs, but we can generally fill most of them at low or no cost.  Note – Common Threads does not supply schools with gardening tools nor do we cover the costs of garden installation.  We are able to share strategies that other schools have successfully used to obtain materials.

Curricular Reference Materials

Common Threads maintains a library of garden and food related lesson-planning materials that are well-used by Food Educators and available to our partner teachers on loan.

Integration Into a Larger Community of Food Education

Common Threads is connected to local, regional, and national networks of school gardens and farm-to-cafeteria programs. Through the visions, triumphs, and challenges of other organizations, we stay informed on ways to strengthen our approach to successful food education.


Common Threads is a voice for policies that support school-based food education on a district, state, and national level. For instance, Common Threads worked with the Bellingham School District Food Service Staff to implement policies and procedures that allow school garden grown produce to be served in school cafeterias at all of the schools with whom Common Threads partners.

What is the role of the food education committee?

School gardens thrive with the support of dedicated champions within each school community. The Committee is responsible for:

  • Advocating for the garden as a learning resource
  • Building Community Support by recruiting volunteers and committee members, and sharing news of the garden via school newsletter, Facebook page and website
  • Budgeting and Fundraising to cover the annual membership fee to Common Threads as well as material needs of the garden
  • Creating and Overseeing a Garden Care Timeline (with leadership and support from a Common Threads Food Educator)  Ideally, each school’s food education committee meets at least quarterly to plan work parties, schedule summer garden care, and communicate any concerns with the Food Educator

What are the roles and responsibilities of the school teaching staff?

The teacher’s role in gardening or cooking is ideally hands-on, working side-by-side with the Food Educator.  The teacher is not responsible for planning or gathering materials for garden or cooking based lessons – that is the responsibility of the Food Educator.  The more teachers are able to share things like classroom learning objectives and key vocabulary with Food Educators, the more effectively the Food Educator can support classroom learning.

Why food education?

Because gardening and cooking in schools:

  • Enriches classroom-based learning across the academic curriculum, making many abstract concepts more concrete
  • Builds community within the school and within the surrounding community
  • Supports healthy eating habits through positive seed-to-table experiences
  • Promotes environmental stewardship and makes sustained outdoor education affordable and accessible


Does Common Threads work with middle and high schools?

Yes. Common Threads currently partners with Whatcom and Kulshan Middle Schools. Gardening and cooking seem to find different “homes” in the Middle School setting depending on the needs of the school. For instance, at Whatcom, the garden us used extensively by the 6th grade science teachers and food is grown for the cafeteria.

The model that we find most compelling is the CTE (Career and Technical Education) model currently being used with great success at GRuB in Olympia.   High School students at high-risk of dropping out of school are meeting with success in gaining academic credits in a garden based learning environment.  With the new Sehome High School being built, the opportunity also exists to consider a culinary arts kitchen using the CTE model.

Garden based learning is well aligned with the design and engineering focus of the Next Generation Science Standards.


What’s your adult to student ratio?

In our open-enrollment youth programs we strive for a 6:1 youth/adult ratio, and guarantee no higher than 8:1. Note that we need a minimum of 6 participants to run a program.

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YES – at Common Threads, we are fully committed to making sure that food restrictions or allergies are not a barrier to program participation. When you register, you will have a chance to let us know what your child’s needs are so that we can plan with those needs in mind 

How do you accommodate people with disabilities?

We are fully committed to accommodating people of all abilities. We welcome your call in advance of a program to make sure that we are prepared to meet your child’s special needs.

What level of participation do you expect or allow from parents?

Most parents drop their children off at the start of a program day and pick them up at the end. You’re always welcome to stay and observe programs – but watch out, we may put you to work!

Many children enjoy showing their parents around at the end of a program day. You are welcome to wander around the Outback with your child at the end of programming.

What does my child need to bring?

  • Water bottle
  • Long-sleeved shirt/warm layers
  • Raingear or sun-hat (or both! We do live in the Pacific Northwest…)
  • Sturdy shoes
  • An open mind
  • If your child is staying for a full day (9am-3pm), please send him/her with a healthy packed lunch.
  • Do not send snacks, we will be making a healthy snack together in both the morning and afternoon sessions.

What is your rain/inclement weather policy?

Our plants love the rain, and we hope your kids do too. We run programs rain or shine. Please send your child with plenty of warm clothes.

What is your cancellation/Refund policy?

We are happy to offer you a refund (minus a 10% processing fee) up to one week in advance of your program date.

My budget is pretty tight right now, but I’d love to send my child to your program. Do you have scholarships?

Common Threads is fiercely committed to making sure that lack of family funds is not the reason that youth miss out on our programs. Visit our scholarships for camp page here for further information.

Do you offer a sibling discount?

Yes. 10% off for the second child if you are registering them at the same time. If you choose to pay full price for your second child, we’ll add it to our scholarship fund.

My child is a little young/old for your recommended ages, can she still participate?

Yes – within reason. While we’ve had successful 8 year olds in Farm Camp and successful 7 year olds in Camp Pizza, our recommendations are based on what we view as most developmentally appropriate for each program. 3 & 4 year olds should only be signing up for Preschool in the Garden. Please contact us if you have any further questions.

My child is in diapers, can she participate?

Only with an accompanying adult to change the diaper if needed.

Where is your summer program located? Is there parking?

We are located at the Outback Farm at WWU. When going along Bill McDonald Parkway, turn north on 25th St. (up the hill) towards the Arboretum. Staff will meet you and your child on 25th St. on the sidewalk across from parking lot 22G and the entrance to the Arboretum (see map below). Pick up occurs in same location.

Parking is limited near the Outback.  The most reliable parking option is in the West Lot of Sehome High School, near the baseball diamond. Limited parking spots may be available along 25th St. at our drop-off stop or at the entrance of the Arboretum. Disability parking is available down at the north entrance to the Outback Farm (just south of the Fairhaven Residences) – please contact us to coordinate with you.

Map of Outback