The USDA recently announced revised rules around school lunches. Now, fresh fruits and vegetables and low fat milk will be the cornerstone of the hot lunch tray. Hooray! Thanks to first lady Michelle Obama and her Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, these changes will be phased in during the 2012-2013 school year.
School gardens can be a great way to help implement these changes in schools. By making healthy eating part of an everyday experience for students they become more engaged with the curriculum, and more likely to shift their long-term eating behaviors. Gardening also encourages healthy eating because children are more likely to try new foods and eat the vegetables if they came from their own garden. As diabetes and obesity continue to increase in adults and children across the country, it is important to look at the benefits of school gardening and how to teach students about nutrition and healthy eating.
Through gardening, students also learn the importance of responsibility and teamwork. As we all know, if you don’t take care of the garden, there will be consequences, ultimately teaching students how to care for a living thing and then reaping the rewards when the work is done well. Moreover, as students work together, they learn how to work as a team, building self-esteem and productive relationships.
Creating school gardens provides a hands-on experience for students in all subject areas including science, math, social studies, language, and visual arts. Experiential learning provides a wealth of opportunity for children to connect with their surroundings and the important concepts being taught in the classroom. Visit the Garden as a Teaching Tool and Gardening Curriculum sections of the Green Thumb Challenge for fun lessons and activities.