Land's passion for local food to benefit Cushing school
Cushing — After 20 years teaching kindergarten at Cushing Community School, Beth Heidemann has found lots of ways to combine learning and fun. And since some of them require a little extra money, she started CushKins Create, for which she is seeking, but has not yet received, tax-exempt status.
The fund supports “creative, hard-to-fund” projects for her class; for example, several times, they have published books as part of a lesson. Last year, they worked with Cushing’s recycling committee on a science unit where students took apart old machines, such as a record player, and ended up also publishing what Heidemann called “a fractured fairytale” based on “The Frog Prince.” The CushKins version was called “The Trash Prince.”
After Cushing summer resident Leslie Land, a well-known food and garden writer, died Aug. 10, Land’s husband, Bill Bakaitis, spoke with Heidemann about a suitable memorial for his wife. Land’s gardener, Kristi Niedermann, is an educational technician at the school, and had made Land and Bakaitis aware of some of the things Heidemann was doing, the teacher said.
As a result, a fund for The Leslie Land Memorial Projects has been started under the CushKins umbrella. It will help support the cooking projects Heidemann does each year with her students, and maybe some activities for the rest of the school as well, she said.
Heidemann said she uses cooking to expose children to healthy foods — they might make whole wheat waffles with shredded zucchini — that they might refuse at home or may simply not have encountered. In addition, the lessons are “rich with science, math and literacy,” all subjects where expectations of kindergarteners have increased over the years, she said. “It’s amazing what kindergarteners do these days.”
Donations in memory of Land will purchase some of this food, which Heidemann hopes to get at farmers markets. Such a use would be in line with Land’s own interest in and promotion of local food production, said Bakaitis in a recent interview. The teacher also wants to take her students to visit farmers markets and a food co-op, field trips which might be extended to the whole school, she said.
Although Land never visited the school because she was not here when it was in session, Heidemann’s class took care of the goldfish that lived in Land’s garden pond during the winter for two years. And Niedermann brought produce from Land’s, and the other gardens where she worked to the school.
Gifts in Land’s memory may also support the school’s annual Fall Fest. For this event, Heidemann explained, each class makes a soup and a bread and grades one through four put on a concert for the school and any community members who want to come. Sometimes an arts project is part of the event as well; for example, one year students made ceramic napkin rings for the meal. At this year’s Fall Fest, Heidemann, said, the fund in Land’s memory will be announced.
Donations in memory of Land may be sent to: CushKins Create c/o Kristi Niedermann, 66 Broad Cove Lane, Cushing, ME 04563. “Leslie Land” should be in the memo line.
Courier Publications reporter Sarah Reynolds can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.
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