This summer I’ve been introduced to Montessori Market, a summer camp Greensboro Montessori has offered for the last 17 years. Through a unique blend of environmental education and hands-on learning, campers participate in a week-long business preparing consumer goods for sale to the general public at the conclusion of camp. Just as our 2016 graduating class impressed me, Montessori Market has revealed yet another School tradition which is so much more than meets the eye.
Montessori Market is an all-hands-on-deck camp featuring contributions from the entire school community. Whatever produce we can’t harvest from our own permaculture gardens, we source from local farmers. Both faculty and students work together to gather ingredients before camp even begins. This year, Nancy Hofer, Mary Jacobson, Kristy Ford and Andi Bogan chaperoned our Lower Elementary Al Fresco summer camp students to a local blueberry farm where they hand picked blueberries for jam. We also needed peaches which led me to think about The Produce Box, a service which delivers fresh produce from North Carolina farmers to my doorstep each week. After one quick trip to Raleigh and the overwhelming generosity of The Produce Box, we had boxes of peaches, certified organic zucchini, green bell peppers, corn, jalapeños and tomatoes.
The students began camp with a full refrigerator of fresh, North Carolina-grown produce and three sprawling gardens from which to pick fresh basil for pesto and lavender for sachets. They have also made a wide variety of handmade crafts to accompany their foodstuffs.
As the students approach the end of the week, the most beautiful and compelling aspect of camp comes alive. With finished goods ready for sale, you have to wonder, “for whom and to whom will they sell their goods, and where?” I’ve since learned that Montessori Market has always worked for the benefit of children in need. Campers wake up bright and early to sell their products at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market on the Saturday immediately following camp, and all proceeds are donated to a charity focused on kids. Hence, it’s time to introduce BackPack Beginnings.
Founded six years ago by Parker White, a new mother at the time, BackPack Beginnings’ mission is to deliver child-centric services to feed, comfort, and clothe children in need in Guilford County. By ensuring food and basic necessities are given directly to children in need, BackPack Beginnings makes a positive and lasting impact on their health and well-being. As a 100% volunteer organization, BackPack Beginnings serves over 6,000 children experiencing hunger and trauma in our community annually. Recently, Parker has been named one of four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Sixth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide. This award honors incredible volunteers from across the country who have made a profound impact on children’s lives in their community. (You can vote for Parker daily from now until September 26; if she wins, The NASCAR Foundation will make a $100,000 donation to BackBack Beginnings.)
Our Montessori Market campers have been learning, cooking, and collaborating on behalf of BackPack Beginnings all week. This Saturday, July 30, they will be at the Curb Market proudly displaying their finished goods, and a donation to BackPack Beginnings will allow market-goers to shop from their products. In addition to the pesto and sachets, shoppers may also select from blueberry jam, peach jam, salsa, zucchini bread, and a number of homespun crafts.
100% of the donations received on Saturday will assist the BackPack Beginnings’ Food BackPack Program which helps fight childhood hunger in our community by filling the weekend food gap for children in need. By the numbers, this program sends 1,600 children from 26 schools with fresh food each weekend totaling 6,400 food bags per month. This effort is in addition to their Comfort BackPack, Food Pantry and Clothing Pantry programs. While our hope is that we receive enough donations on Saturday to empty our booth, any remaining products can be directly donated to BackPack Beginnings for direct inclusion in Food BackPacks or the Food Pantry.
So this is the story of how a summer camp evolves into so much more than a summer camp. How the Montessori philosophy challenges us, as adults, to push our kids to do more than text, snapchat and Netflix during summer break. How engaged faculty and community organizations prepare children for a lifetime of success by providing real-world experiences in running a business, manufacturing, time management, and philanthropy. And how children come together to help others less fortunate than themselves. And how Montessori Market is more than meets the eye.