Garden Class at Local Elementary School

Recently, an article in the Washington Post ran with a disturbing headline: “Nearly half of all children ages 1 to 5 don’t eat a vegetable daily.” The article goes on to say 

“Nearly half of American children ages 1 to 5 — 49 percent — do not eat a vegetable daily, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, nearly 1 in 3 young children (32 percent) do not eat fruit daily, and more than half (57 percent) drink a sugar-sweetened beverage at least once a week.”

Adults must be better, right? Wrong! CDC research shows adults, particularly men, younger adults, and those in lower income brackets, do not consume the recommended amount of vegetables daily. Only 9.3% of USA adults do. That’s 1 in 10. Clearly, more needs to be done to improve the diet quality of all Americans.

One way to boost a child’s willingness to eat vegetables is to engage them in growing a garden. Andrew Cooke Magnet School in Waukegan approached Greentown Grows to teach gardening to their students utilizing their existing aeroponic Tower Gardens. No garden program is complete without teaching how to turn vegetables into tasty snacks, leading us to partner with Plant Based Nutrition Movement. PBNM is a nationwide organization that is focused on healing people and the planet through whole plant foods. 

Greentown Grows centered the garden instruction around seeds and roots, planting a pot or rockwool cube, then journaling their observations. Older students learned to read a seed packet and design a garden. The goal is to grow vegetables for the cooking class in April (led by PBNM) and for the children to practice observation and data collection by journaling plant growth weekly. The pictures below show how much fun everyone had.

Click on the pictures for a closer look.

Seed dissection allows students to explore the inner parts of a seed. Lentils and garbanzos sprouts are easy to get the outer seed coat off and look inside for the embryo. How often do children get told to take things apart? 

Lettuce plants grown in mason jars allows students to get a close-up view of roots. With magnification, they can see tiny root hairs plants use to absorb water and nutrients. The students also liked looking at the root structure of basil plants.

Kindergarten and 1st grade classes planted cilantro seeds in pots. When the plants are larger, the students will take these home to their families. The students not only journaled what they observed but were asked to hypothesize what the seeds would look like next week.

Fourth and 5th grade students learned how to read planting and growing information on a seed packet and then, on the back of the paper, designed a garden with the vegetables their families would like. They also enjoyed finding unusual looking vegetables, especially purple carrots. 

Second through 5th grade students planted seeds in rockwool cubes that will go into the Tower Gardens.

One week later...

Greentown Grows has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the school, and we look forward to an exciting cooking class in April. 

Many thanks to our partner, Plant Based Nutrition Movement, for assisting with teaching, and Jared Rathge and the other excellent teachers at ACMS who also helped with the lessons. We could not have done this without you!

Photography by Brooklyn at BlizzyDesigns.

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