Cultivating Vegetable Eaters, One Student at a Time!

Cultivating Vegetable Eaters, One Student At A Time!

Tue 17 May 2011

Story by Kim Weaver
 

At Red Hill Elementary we are fortunate to have a well established garden program sponsored by our PTA and other charitable groups from the community.

The garden was built in 2000 by parent volunteers who believed that the exposure of "homegrown" foods would be enriching for all students. The garden committee received a start up budget from our PTA and has been given a set budget ever since. Supplemental income comes from plant sale fundraisers and our newly established Farmers Market; we also receive an annual donation from the Tustin Garden Club. We take pride in the team effort that is demonstrated by eager students, many dedicated parent volunteers, accepting teachers, and a school principal that champions the garden.

I have been involved as a garden volunteer for the past six years, and have been chairperson for the last three. This year we took the program in a new direction after discovering the GrowingGREAT school garden curriculum. Making it fun to learn about how vegetables grow is what Red Hill’s garden program is all about and Fall planting lessons taken directly from the GrowingGREAT lesson objectives have been taking place.

The greatest advantage of these fall planting lessons was that each grade grew their own edible crop. While each grade grew a similar combination of salad type ingredients, plant types varied and by mid-January we were able to harvest over 150 heads of lettuce, tubs of sugar snap peas, radishes, carrots, broccoli and onions for our first “Salad Harvest Party”.

Parent volunteers tossed all varieties of lettuces together and served the students a Harvest Salad Bar, all the other vegetable varieties were displayed on platters for consumption at lunch recess. After months of close observation and some early harvesting of their own grade's projects, students were able to taste all varieties of vegetables at the harvest salad bar. The best part came after all the students had a chance to take their small salad to the lunch tables, the ones who had already finished their salads shouted, “More Please!”.

What was left over from the harvest was sold at our first ever Farmers Market. Fresh produce, small bags of school grown citrus, and small potted seedlings of various vegetables were offered for sale at $1.00 each. Fresh squeezed lemonade also sold for 25 cents a cup. We netted $475.00, all the while exposing our families to growing their own vegetables.

To read more follow this link: http://www.ocregister.com/news/fifth-285031-students-garden.html

For now we plan to continue using the GrowingGREAT curriculum. Students feel so accomplished when they see the growth of these hands-on lessons fill up the classroom vegetable boxes. Not to mention, a sense of ownership when they plant, tend, harvest and sell the produce they have grown in the school garden. They feel so much pride telling their parents and farmers market shoppers what the vegetable varieties are. Better yet, 5th graders start small seedling trays during the "growing season" and encourage shoppers to purchase 4" potted lettuces, broccoli, cabbage and herbs to take home and grow in their own gardens.

I never get tired of watching a seasonal growing period with our curious, young students, or witnessing the wonder as they pull out a huge radish from the soil or nibble on a sugar snap pea. I have come to realize that reaching one student at a time in the school garden establishes lifelong lessons for making healthy eating choices. Incorporating fresh grown, handpicked, delicious vegetables into their early education engages all five senses. You can never take away the experience of seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching something you, yourself, grew from seed.

Happy Vegetable Gardening from Red Hill Elementary!

About the author: Kim Weaver is a Parent volunteer & garden chairperson at Red Hill Elementary, North Tustin, California

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