Ocean Knoll’s Food And Health Revolution JourneyThu 21 Apr 2011
Story by Jodie Paxton
Ocean Knoll Elementary is located in Encinitas, CA and serves 475 students k-6. We are designated a Title 1 school based on the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch and/or whose parents have less than a high school education. This school year, 42% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch and 41% of our students are identified as second language learners. Our voluntary Parent Community group is very proud to serve our diverse student population which is representative of our community.
Over the past few years our Parent Community has united to create a dynamic focus on health and wellness. It started with the idea to begin a garden in the weedy and unkempt area of our school grounds. So a group of likeminded parents got together, including our current PTA President Chrissy Gerber, who had a vision to turn our dirt into the garden.
Ocean Knoll received various grants and financial support from local businesses which, along with self raised funds, helped to get the garden and lunch composting started. The hardscape and many plants were donated by local businesses and community members, and parents and children came out on weekends to help build the garden which is now a blooming outdoor classroom that teaches all of our students on a weekly basis.
Three things have contributed to our Garden’s success:
• Communication of our plan
• Enthusing our students
• Empowering our volunteers
With our 3-pronged approach, we have been able to obtain community donations, excite students, who can’t wait to see what has grown, and have secured over 30 volunteers who work with our teachers to develop comprehensive lesson plans.
Lesson plans are designed using concepts from UC Davis’ Nutrition to Grow On & Eating Healthy From Farm to Fork, Lifelab The Growing Classroom, as well as other suggested books and websites. Children are continually educated in a way that will transform how they think about food and wellness via the use of age appropriate techniques, for example the kindergartners are taught to explore the garden using the five senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, hearing).
Through our Wellness Program, created by one parent, parents are encouraged to act as positive role models by exercising with their kids before school each morning, this is not only good for their health but gives kids quality time with their parents. Various activities that comprise our wellness program are: running, walking, yoga, boot camp and martial arts. In addition, we have on-site community health screenings and evening wellness seminars that are offered free of charge. All of our information is communicated in our Newsletter this informs the community and maintains excitement in the project.
This year we were overwhelmed with a partnership from the AC & AD Foundation for World Health, who will initiate “The Sage Garden Project”, an educational effort in elementary student populations who are at-risk for developing diabetes. The focus includes curriculum with expanded programming in science to include nutrition, and the experience of cooking, gardening, and exercise. This project will support Ocean Knoll by increasing our current garden space, providing cooking facilities, and supporting our staff from planting to cooking farm-fresh food for healthy living.
The impact has been huge. Families exercise together regularly and kids bring home their knowledge of healthy eating, love for gardening, composting, and recycling. I can attest to this first hand. My daughter is very eco-aware and has begun compositing in our backyard and always wants to go to the garden center on the weekends to plant something!
With a single idea from a single parent and support from an unbelievable principal who has a 21st Century vision for education, Ocean Knoll Elementary has become a school that has inspired our families and entire community. Being involved in the transformation that is occurring here is amazing. We are re-defining the role of volunteering and are increasing the impact that it can have. I can’t wait to see what happens next with our Food and Health Revolution at Ocean Knoll!
About the author: Jodie Paxton is an Ocean Knoll parent with a daughter in 1st grade and a son that will soon be in Kindergarten.
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