An Edible Garden With A Kidís TwistTue 31 May 2011
Story by Gabby Scharlach
The whole reason I started the Miller Creek Organic Edible Garden and Outdoor Kitchen is to help combat childhood obesity and global warming while ensuring healthy food for everyone.
Last year I was inspired by Alice Waters and Michelle Obama, after seeing them on the show, Sixty Minutes, which my family always watches around dinner time. Alice Waters turned this school with a bad cafeteria into an organic, healthy, interactive kitchen with really good food that kids like! Itís so important that kids are eating healthy because not eating healthy can lead to medical problems such as diabetes and heart/liver issues that can stay with you for life.
The Miller Creek Edible Garden puts a new, positive twist on eating right, organically and educationally.
I wrote a proposal for the garden over my Christmas holiday when I was in sixth grade and gave it to my principal, Mr. Greg Johnson, who LOVED it. He had me present the idea to the School District at the Site Council Meeting so that they would give us permission to use the site where I wanted the garden to be on our school grounds.
Then I presented my keynote show to a few organizations, and I was able to raise $30,000 in a few months by the end of the school year.
Over the summer my mom and dad helped to organize lots of parents and community volunteers to build the garden. We even had people like our Marin County supervisor Susan Adams come out to help us build the deer fence. Ms Adams had me submit my project for a county grant too.
There were lots of local businesses who donated time, equipment or materials to the garden. My principal also loaned me one of the school computers over the summer so I could create a blog web site for the garden.
It took us about four months, from July Ė October, to build the first phase which I wrote about every week or two for the whole summer. We were able to finally start the first plantings with my seventh grade science class in late fall 2010.
There are many different features in the edible garden. There is a green house to start our seeds, a cistern to collect rain water, raised planters for our veggies and beneficial plants, a Ďwoolly pocketí wall that grows herbs and veggies up a wall, and a small orchard with various types of trees. Some of the trees we have are a lemon, plum, pear, two different types of apple trees, and figs.
We are all set to get our organic certification next week. It was important to me for the garden to be organic because it means we use no chemicals, only natural products and organic produce so our garden and the students will be healthier. By the end of the month we will have an outdoor kitchen ready where chefs can come and give demonstrations and a place where we can cook a little of the food we harvest.
Right now, the seventh grade science classes are planting new crops while harvesting the ones about to turn. Our garden coordinator, Katie Dwyer, weaves in science lessons to gardening. For example, in class we might be learning about evolution, and in the garden we will learn about how some plants share common ancestors and how they evolved.
Ever since I started this garden Iíve always been asked how I think schools can make kids eat better. Being a kid myself, I donít think you can really make kids eat healthier; they are going to have to want to do it themselves. One way to do that is to simply make something they already like and make it healthier, so instead of putting chocolate syrup on waffles put fresh strawberries and the waffles can be whole wheat instead of white.
Another way is to make the healthy food taste and have the same appeal as the junk they normally eat, because face it - if you serve a meal that looks (and maybe smells) like a lump of brown kids are not going to eat it just because you say itís healthy. I found that when the kids in the science classes grew and harvested their own food, they wanted to eat it, too, because they knew exactly where it came from, and they helped grow it.
We talk about things like this at the Project Lunch Stakeholder meetings, a program of Teens Turning Green, which is trying to change the school lunches in Marin County to be healthier. Our garden hopes to teach many kids about healthy eating.
Miller Creek Edible Garden
About the author: Gabby Scharlach is a 7th grader at Miller Creek Middle School, San Rafael, CA.
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