School Gardens Foster Healthier Students
“I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.” - Wendell Berry With gardening season in full swing, we are reminded to be conscious and mindful of where our food comes from, be it the farmers market, the grocery store or our own backyards. Food less traveled is more nutrient dense and flavorful than produce sold at grocery stores, which on average travels as much as 1,500 miles.
The kids of today are a part of a generation that does not understand what real food is and where it comes from. Being able to discern a potato from an onion is a seemingly lost skill and the rise of diet and lifestyle-related diseases at younger ages has sounded the alarms to change the way we teach nutrition in schools.
What better way to build authentic knowledge and understanding of food within the younger generation than providing hands-on learning opportunities in schools with gardens? The question that might be surfacing right now is how will school gardens inspire your kids to eat more broccoli?
Kids who participate in growing food are excited by their accomplishment of nurturing something to maturity and are more open to trying it. When kids dedicate time to caring for the garden, they are not only learning the responsibility of managing a project but are more appreciative of the energy it took to grow something.
They respect the process and the food is grown, and if done right, the produce product can be served in the school lunch program. Much of the foods kids of today eat are highly processed. Tomatoes come in the form of pizza sauce, and potatoes are chopped into fries. It is no wonder the younger generation is surprised to learn that potatoes are not the brown flaky-skinned vegetable with a spicy flesh.
So how does a school garden fit with the heavy load of standards that teachers are juggling; isn’t teaching math more important? Well, subjects like math, science and English can be taught in the garden setting while meeting academic standards.
Students can practice multiplication by determining how many garlic plants can be grown from any number of garlic bulbs, and English can be taught by encouraging observational skills for writing stories and communicating ideas. Science is everywhere in a garden, from the soil life to the environment around the students.
The opportunities for learning in school gardens are endless, and kids can practice healthy habits by participating. National organizations like Farm to School Network are partnering with over 23 million students and over 40 percent of schools nationwide to create win-win situations where students learn real-life skills while mastering vital academic standards.
For more details, visit healthysheboygancounty.org or call 920-459-3031.
-Brandi Bohlman is the Nourish Farms school garden educator