Posted by: Alison Risso

Friday, October 21, 2016

Studies show (and gardeners know) that when kids grow fruits and vegetables they’re more likely to eat them and that it’s best if kids connect with nutritious foods early in life. But teachers in low-income elementary schools are so busy working to ensure that students succeed academically, it’s too much to ask that they also  add nutritional instruction and gardening to their never-ending “to do” list. 

So, to help teachers meet their academic goals AND support healthy childhoods, REAL School Gardens gives teachers the tools and training they need to lead Math, Science, and Language Arts lessons as they grow vegetables and fruits in the outdoor classroom.  This way, not only do children get the hands-on experiences that help them love learning and succeed academically, but children also get early exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables while they get out of their desks and get some fresh air and sunshine.

To expand our health and nutrition impact even further, beginning in the 2016-17 school year, with support from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, REAL School Gardens will launch a new nutrition-based curriculum.  This new series of lessons will get students growing and tasting fresh new foods and learning about the importance of eating nutrient dense meals.

REAL School Gardens’ partner schools will receive training on how to lead a five-lesson unit designed for multiple grade levels, young ages where children are most likely to establish eating habits. 

With lessons like these, students will learn more about our “Big 6!” vegetables – carrots, peas, spinach, collards, cauliflower and sweet potatoes – healthy kid-friendly favorites that can be easily grown in our learning gardens and are commonly served in school cafeterias. Through the process of planting, growing, experimenting with, cooking, and of course eating these vegetables, students will get deeply engaged in and excited about trying new healthy foods and building habits that last a lifetime.  

Vanessa Ford, REAL School Gardens’ Director of Training and Curriculum Development, says “This funding allows teachers access to a curriculum rooted in best practices, along with training on how to use it, resulting in a greater impact on student achievement. This type of structure adds incredible value to an existing outdoor classroom space.”

In addition to standards-based lesson plans and training, teachers will receive the important background knowledge, links to bonus activities, and take-home informational materials to expand the impact of each lesson beyond the classroom.

Out Teach, formerly REAL School Gardens, provides professional development for elementary school teachers. Out Teach prepares them to use school gardens, outdoor classrooms, and green schoolyards to improve instruction through three-dimensional project-based learning, and outdoor experiential inquiry-based education. Professional learning with Out Teach improves hands-on science and STEM education through instructional coaching and digital education resources and improves 21st Century skills.