I have been a teacher for the last twenty-seven years. This year our school partnered with American Heart Association and became one of their National Teaching Gardens. I am the Garden Champion for our school and am more than proud to be a part of it all.
I have seen so much enthusiasm and excitement about our garden from all over our community. The kids are so proud of their special place and I am usually the first person that they run to when they want to share stories about their harvests, pests, problems and successes. While all of the students at my school benefit from having a garden, there is one student who has really grown leaps and bounds by being a part of our garden program.
Gloria is a first generation American citizen in her family. Her father speaks broken English and her mother speaks none. She has 4 siblings and she is the second oldest. When I first met Gloria, she was shy and smiley. She didn’t contribute much to class discussions, but would always look interested in things that were going on. She was not involved in afterschool activities because her family had no car and was unable to pick her up if she stayed past the bus pick up time. She participated in no extra-curricular activities.
When talk of our garden began, she perked up and began asking questions about it. Who was going to run it? What could kids do there? How was it all going to happen? So just about every day, I included her in on the news of what was happening with our garden project. She heard about what we had to do in order for the school district to go along with it, how we planned on fundraising and all about the grants and money that we were given to start our garden program. She became quite a conversationalist and asked great questions every step of the way. She got involved in the movement. We set up a table with grow kits at the end of the hall and she watered them daily. She would take other students with her and show them the vegetables and herbs that we started for our first spring planting. She showed spark and enthusiasm like we had never seen before. She felt empowered and important. According to her teachers, she was doing great in class and her test scores were improving.
When we had our Groundbreaking Ceremony, Gloria was right by my side. She took part in the ceremony and her teachers let her stay in the garden all day long during the planting sessions. She knew where hand trowels were and how much water to put on new plants and seedlings. She had learned so much more than I had every expected her to.
In addition to becoming an invaluable student leader in our garden program, Gloria brought that learning and excitement home to her family. They started a container garden on their porch and actually came up to school for a visit. I had only met them in meetings, but her mom made a point to come up to school and say “Gracious” to me for helping her child grow
I am more than proud of Gloria. With this empowerment that she gained through being a part of our school garden, she has so much potential for success. It not only changed her, it changed her whole family.
A Teaching Garden will give you stories of success for your kids that will carry over to the classroom as well as their personal lives. I believe that every school should have a garden. It just takes some digging in on the part of the adults in the school community. It really is a little thing that makes a big difference and promotes healthy lifestyles for our kids.
Kim Aman is a public school teacher working towards integrating school curriculum and farming at Moss Haven Elementary School.
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