TCES first grade and Garden Club teacher, Colette Murray, M. ed. with her Red Vine Spinach.
RED VINE SPINACH IS RICH IN VITAMINS A AND C, IRON AND CALCIUM. IT CONTAINS CERTAIN PHENOLIC PHYTOCHEMICALS AND HAS ANTIOXIDANT PROPERTIES.
Do you suppose Walmart sells Red Vine Spinach?
Treasure Coast Elementary School (TCES) is a Title 1 school, with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families.
Ms. Murray, along with the TCES cafeteria manager, are teaching her students that you don’t have to go to Walmart to buy your vegetables and fruits; you can grow them at home.
And she is teaching her students two other important principles:
- Have a healthy diet by eating yummy vegetables and fruits.
- “Recycle and Reuse.” Even if you don’t have a place for a garden at your house or apartment, put dirt in milk jugs. Recycle sunflower and other seeds by drying them and planting them to grow new plants.
Here is a plant pocket garden called Wooly Pocket, made from recycled materials. The Club bought two of them over six years ago from California.
The tiles above are a “Memory Wall” for those that were in garden club and have moved on to middle school. Of those students two come back for volunteer hours.
Wooly Pocket Garden.
32 students were enrolled in the 2016-2017 after hours Garden Club, on Monday and Wednesday’s, from 3:45 – 5:15, when they were picked up by their parents. The program is six-seven years old.
In addition to growing vegetables, the club even features a native butterfly garden.
The Butterfly Garden consists of red and purple Maypops, a larval food of a number of butterfly species, as well as white Pentas, which have nectar that attract swarms of butterflies.
Butterflies that buzz around the garden include Gulf fritillary, or bright orange Passion Butterflies, Monarch Butterflies, with wings which feature an easily recognizable black, orange, and white pattern, Queen butterflies, which are found throughout the tropics and into the temperate regions of the Americas, Asia and Africa, and bright yellow Sulphur butterflies.
Here is a rundown of the vegetables and fruits produced by the TCES Garden Club.
Sweet Banana Peppers
Brussel Sprouts and Herbs
Yellow and Red Tomatoes
So what happens to the vegetables and fruit?
They are harvested by the students once ripe and cooked by the cafeteria manager. She features three yummy specialties:
What the students don’t eat they can take home; so long as their parents have approved it. Everything cooked for the students is in accordance with Board of Health codes. For example, left over soup is sent home in sterilized containers.
While Ms. Murray has no set curriculum, she does seek council from Florida Agriculture In The Classroom (FAITC), whose mission is to increase agricultural literacy through K-12 education in Florida.
Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc. (FAITC) is a non-profit organization that develops and trains teachers and agriculture industry volunteers in its agricultural curricula and materials, which they in turn use to educate students about the importance of agriculture.
While you may not think it costs much to run the garden from buying seeds, it costs roughly $ 2,000 a year to fund the Garden Club. The Club needs items like an occasional hose, Miracle Grow a wheel barrow and tomato cages.
Also, if the various seeds don’t grow, plants are needed to fill in for what is lost.
So Ms. Murray is always seeking grant money and is grateful to receive donations from Lowe’s and Home Depot.
According to https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/gardening-for-children, children in particular will have lots of fun and gain special benefits from gardening.
“Gardening is educational and develops new skills including:
- Responsibility – from caring for plants
- Understanding – as they learn about cause and effect (for example, plants die without water, weeds compete with plants)
- Self-confidence – from achieving their goals and enjoying the food they have grown
- Love of nature – a chance to learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place
- Reasoning and discovery – learning about the science of plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition and simple construction
- Physical activity – doing something fun and productive
- Cooperation – including shared play activity and teamwork
- Creativity – finding new and exciting ways to grow food
- Nutrition – learning about where fresh food comes from”
Additionally, according to the University of Missouri Extension, ” Many math skills can be involved in planting a garden, such as measuring the space, counting seeds, spacing the seeds or plants, or comparing the sizes of seeds.”