By Kim Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Elm Creek Elementary first-grade teacher Julie Blue teaches her students how to hammer and nail and cook meals from scratch.

She’s been in the classroom for 27 years, and on her birthday there’s no better gift than being with her students.

“I am thankful for my ‘firsties’ today,” she said. “They love to smile and make me laugh and they are hard workers.”

There are a lot of ways to work in her room — a “maker’s space” allows kids to build with tools.

“They learn how to hammer and nail the first day of school,” Blue said.

Another station allows children to create their own snacks.

“We have the Blue Snack Shack, where we have healthy snacks every day, fruit or trail mix,” she said. “Every month we cook something where we see where it comes from.”

Those lessons start on a field trip. Last month, Mrs. Blue took her first-graders to the Maple Grove Farmer’s Market to interview farmers and pick out and buy produce to make vegetable soup.

“We came back and chopped and sliced and peeled and enjoyed eating it, and even had some leftovers that they could bring home to their families,” she said. “It becomes a habit, but it also is part of eating together and celebrating with family and friends.”

Blue’s firsties, as she called them, adore her for all they get to do in class. Parents love hearing about it through pictures and letters she shares on her blog, Blue Notes.

“Often times when you ask your first-grader what they did at school, they can’t remember, but if parents have a picture to look at to prompt conversation about what’s going on at school then they are part of their learning as well,” Blue said.

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