The Tea Project
Imagine a world where elementary school children grow herbs in a school garden, harvest them and drink herbal tea together mindfully every day.
These children understand the plant cycle from seed to warm belly because they care for the plants at every stage.
: a standards-based initiative in which elementary schoolchildren experience the plant cycle, weather and seasons, and develop self-care, empathy, body awareness, mindfulness and science observation skills through the lens of growing and preparing perennial healing herbs.
The Tea Project is presented as a 3-credit graduate course for educators, including workshops, PLC's and consulting visits, through Castleton University's Center for Schools, VT, and can be adapted to pre K- Grade 6.
We begin the school year harvesting common herbs in the school yard. We learn how to make them into healing topical cream and salve, how to dry the plants, and we prepare them for our daily tea. We experience plants as the basis of our tea. We listen to our body; where can we feel the tea in our bodies?
Achillea millefolium, Yarrow leaf
We use the left-most leaf, Yarrow, to heal wounds and bruises.
Rhus typhina, Staghorn sumac
We make sumac lemonade with these fuzzy berries in the fall.
Achillea millefolium, Yarrow flower
During this fall harvest time, teachers attend Tea Project workshops and Professional Learning Communities (PLC's), creating plans for their winter and spring implementation of the tea project.
Grade 1/2 teachers transport transplants of Lemon balm and Catnip to their school garden at the end of a workshop.
Ocimum sanctum, Tulsi
Students garble Lemon Balm they grew in their school garden. They strip the stems of the leaf and flower, preparing to store the herb for winter, to use as tea in the classroom. These particular students are studying botany this year and infusing the Tea Project lessons into this unit.
Classrooms receive a hanging drying rack in which to dry their herbal harvest.
We ask the question: What plant is abundant on your school's land? The answer for the students above? BURDOCK! They dig the fall roots of burdock, grate it with a cheese grater back in the classroom, and dry it for a tea to keep their skin, digestive system and mind healthy through the winter.
Students become empowered when learning that plants can heal their wounds. This student uses a plantain (Plantago laceolata) leaf poultice to heal a cut on his skin.
Students use the final snow-free weeks of late autumn to prepare garden beds for spring!
In winter we rest, and the plants rest.
We take time for our bodies to listen. We do this by breathing deeply, calming our bodies and drinking tea together during a story or tea time.
We steep loose leaf tea (below) and let it cool before drinking it each day. Each month of the school year, we become familiar with a different
"Tea of the Month".
We learn through experience the five tastes of herbs: Salty, Sweet, Sour, Bitter and Pungent. Without naming what the plants do, we taste them and experience them in our bodies. Students become the experts in detecting the purpose of each individual plant.
The Tea Project experience emphasizes the strength of one's innate capacity to know information from WITHIN, not just from books and external sources of information. These students just tasted hops (Humulus lupulus)! Hops is a bitter sedative, which brings the blood flow from the head to the digestion, grounding the body.
With no knowledge other than the taste of the flowers, students immediately lay down on the rug, illustrating their capacity to know this plant's healing actions from their own experience!
Though familiar with the taste of bitter (left) and sour (right), these students become brave flavor tasters with the invitation to try everything new in the Tea Project.
After outdoor play time, these students enjoy tea, made from the needles of the White Pine tree (Pinus strobus), harvested from the woods where they learn and play every day.
We plant and nourish our seedlings in the classroom and grow lab.
After the snow melts, we identify and harvest common wild herbs for our daily tea: dandelion, coltsfoot, red raspberry leaf, self-heal, yarrow, plantain, burdock, heartsease pansy, toothwort.
Just before school ends for the year, we transplant the grown seedlings to our school perennial herb gardens. In a few years, when these plants are mature, the students who planted them will be three years older, and able to mentor younger students in harvesting, drying and preparing tea from them.
The Tea Project is a gift for ourselves, our community, the earth, and the next seven generations.
Tussilago farfara, Coltsfoot flowers. We make a cough syrup out of these early spring bloomers!