Do you know what a parsnip looks like? What about a turnip or rutabaga?

These questions may seem elementary, but to the Slow Food Charleston Youth Community Action Club, it is important to make sure children in the Lowcountry can answer these questions.

Once a week, the club brings its mobile garden classroom to James Simons Elementary School to provide a hands-on learning experience for students of the WINGS after-school program.

WINGS focuses on developing social and emotional intelligence in elementary school students.

“We teach them what a seed is, how they travel, what plants can do for us and how healthy food can impact our lives,” said Ashley Hall School junior Grayson Frizzelle, who founded the Slow Food club in 2010 with classmate Maela Singh.

Clayton Buckaloo, also a junior at Ashley Hall, is the curriculum team leader for the organization. She said they worked on developing their lesson plans all summer with help from a Whole Foods nutritionist.

Last week, Grayson, Maela and Clayton taught a lesson on root vegetables. And instead of looking at them in photographs, the action club brought in the vegetables for the after-school students.

Part of the lesson involved describing the physical characteristics of the vegetables. They used measuring tools and a scale to learn more about them.

And right on time for the holiday season, the students learned alternative ways to eat potatoes instead of just fried or slathered with butter and sour cream.

“It’s the first time they’re hearing a lot of this stuff,” Maela said.

The girls also recommend that for today, try to cook with “anything from the ground.”

Grayson said her favorites are dark, green and leafy vegetables like collard greens.

Slow Food and Whole Foods sponsor the youth club and provide materials, such as produce, used during the lessons. They made it possible for the students to create the mobile garden classroom this summer.

Last year, they were able to create a truck farm, where they made a documentary that followed the project from start to finish.

Youth club members said their mobility allows them to interact more with the community, which is something they always envisioned.

“Working with kids this year makes them feel empowered and like they’re making an impact,” said Maela’s mother, Carrie Singh.

“They seem excited. They like getting their hands dirty,” Grayson said about their students.

Singh and Melissa Clegg, Grayson’s mother and a member of the Slow Food board, accompany their daughters to James Simons and said they have seen the elementary school students and the students grow.

“It allows them to spread a message they believe in, but it also helps them with personal leadership skills,” Singh said.

She also said that the students at James Simons benefit from the program because they can relate to the youth club students.

“Connections are happening here,” Singh said.

Deja Felder, a College of Charleston student from Greenville who studies psychology and health science, is the WINGS leader for the class that the club teaches.

“Nutrition education is important for children because they can live healthier and grow stronger with other options,” Felder said.

The youth club is made up of 12 students from Ashley Hall, Wando High School and Academic Magnet. The students have completed more than 400 hours of community service since the organization started.

This year, they are divided into five teams: engineering led by Grayson; curriculum led by Clayton; graphic design led by Maela and Kells McPhillips; garden planting led by Mina Rismani; and after-school programming led by Grayson, Clayton, Maela and Gabby Giles.

“It’s great to see a group of kids who are motivated and have the community supporting them,” Clegg said.

For information about Slow Food Charleston and the Community Action Club go to

Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or jmcduffie@post