Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sprout Scouts: Good, Healthy, Safe, Happy, and Respected

Students clear the plant debris from the fall harvest to prepare for spring planting.

Cara Plott is a FoodCorps service member with Bronx Health REACH. She is working with The Family School in the Bronx to integrate garden and nutrition lessons into classes, promotes healthy food options in the cafeteria, and supports a school wide culture of health. Cara attributes her excitement at working with The Family School to the fact that teachers, administration, cafeteria staff, and students appreciate the importance of healthy bodies and healthy minds for learning and growing. 

Here is her report.

This spring has been an exciting time at the Family School as we have rolled out two new programs to give our students more opportunities to grow as learners and gardeners. One initiative is the roll out of our weekly garden lesson sequence. For the first time this spring, students from all Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes have engaged with our garden through planting seeds and learning how plants grow. Each class has a weekly garden class time, where students do hands on lessons that are aligned with the New York City science curriculum. In the fall, our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes will learn and plant in the garden. By systematizing our use of the garden space, more students and teachers will have the opportunity to use the garden as it becomes woven into the fabric of the school’s curriculum and culture.

Second, we have started our first ever afterschool gardening club, called Sprout Scouts. The Sprout Scouts are ten fifth grader leaders nominated by their teachers, some of whom are also Wellness Ambassadors. The Sprout Scouts club is jointly led by Ms. Goodspeed, a first grade teacher at The Family School, and me. Our Sprout Scouts have been hard at work getting the garden ready for planting by our younger students. So far they have cleared the garden beds of dead plant matter from last year and analyzed the components of our soil. They also helped to construct a pea trellis (see photo below)! Many of the activities that we do in Sprout Scouts are from the curriculum recently developed by FoodCorps in collaboration with LifeLabs.

Students helped to build a pea trellis on one of the raised beds. Here students are stringing twine to create the net up which the pea plants will grow.

Why are we so passionate about gardening at The Family School? First, from seed math, to writing poems about changes in spring, to analyzing nitrogen content of soil, we know that our students can greatly benefit from the hands on learning opportunities in the garden. Second, seeing where the food they eat comes from and developing a better understanding of the cycle of nature equips our students with the knowledge and critical thinking skills to make healthy choices in their own lives now and in the years to come. Third, the garden creates a unique community for our students. While we are learning gardening and cooking skills, we are also learning life skills, like how we should respect all living things, from our fellow humans to the smallest worm. On our first day of Sprout Scouts, our Scouts came up with words that described the way that they wanted to feel in the garden: “Good, Healthy, Safe, Happy, and Respected.” Through our work in and out of the garden we seek to help make our fellow gardeners know that they deserve to feel each of these things, and that they are supported to grow into whatever they aspire to be.

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