BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - It takes a village to raise a child - and a garden.
Throughout the Battle Creek area, local schools are partnering with Sprout Urban Farms to provide kids with both hands-on learning opportunities and a pathway to fresh produce.
Sprout Urban Farms offers assistance to residents who want to grow their own food, operates fresh food mobile markets and buys local wholesale produce to support small farmers, according to the nonprofit organization’s website.
The agricultural group also works with schools, from pre-kindergarten to college, to set up gardens, incorporate plant life and gardens into daily lessons for kids and operate fresh produce mobile markets, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer ( https://bcene.ws/1TcROXm ).
Sprout leader Jeremy Andrews said the organization works with several local schools, including Lakeview High School, Riverside Elementary, Dudley STEM School, Calhoun Community High School, North Pennfield Elementary, Pennfield High School and Kellogg Community College.
The group’s “Farm to School” program and mobile markets are funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Binda Foundation, United Way, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Pennfield Schools Educational Foundation.
What Sprout does at each school is different. At CCHS, Sprout built a small hoop house for the school to support year-round growing and taught lessons for the school’s environmental science class.
At both Dudley and North Pennfield, Sprout helped build walk-in hoop houses for the elementary schools and uses them to enrich students’ learning on a variety of subjects.
“This is not just science,” Andrews said. “You can teach math, you can teach writing … you can teach really anything in a garden.”
Andrews said the group is seeking to build hoop houses at schools so that they can be used as learning environments and growing environments for schools’ salad bars. They also want students to be advocates for their own lunchrooms.
At Dudley, Riverside, Community Action’s downtown office and KCC, Sprout offers mobile markets where community members can stop in and purchase fresh produce. Students sometimes work at these markets.
“Our goal is to basically meet parents where they are, have healthy options for parents to buy produce at school, when they’re picking up their children, if that’s what they do,” Andrews said. “So that there’s that option, it’s not an extra thing. Making healthy choices simpler for people.”
Sprout has also met with local school food service directors to sell local produce.
Dudley Principal Ricky Jones said besides helping build the school’s hoop house with the help of a grant from the Fair Food Network, Sprout also provided technical expertise when the school planted its fall crop of squash and eggplant. The school distributed its bountiful crop to the community through Sprout.
Now Sprout representatives work with his students every week in their hoop house on science-related lessons.
“It allows them to be able to apply the learning from the classroom so instead of talking about the growth of food and produce, they can actually see it in action,” Jones said. “And they can actually experience it so in that respect, this is the best type of learning, when students are actually applying the concepts and ideas they’re learning in the classroom.”
?At North Pennfield, students are gaining the same opportunity.
Principal Scott Hall said Andrews comes to his elementary school every week. He works with teachers to plan lessons for kids and then works with youngsters at the school’s greenhouse.
The first lesson, Hall said, centered on what the greenhouse is, the rules of that learning environment and how those rules tied into their social studies standards.
They also used the greenhouse as a way to teach the youngsters about the five senses. When they planted seedlings in the space, the kids got to measure the plants’ growth and how far the plants were from each other. And classes have gone out to the planting center for story time.
“It’s a matter of adapting things and just utilizing that space in really creative ways rather than just dealing with these topics at desks in the classroom,” Hall said.
Hall said he thinks his students are getting excited about what they’re learning.
?”They could be learning about some of these things sitting at chairs in a classroom at desks, but when we do learning in a more creative environment that involves more hands-on learning, more active participation, they’re more engaged,” Hall said. “And I think the learning that occurs, it’s just more effective and I think a bigger impression is made on the kids.”
Jones said it’s a good thing when schools partner with community organizations.
“It takes a community to educate kids,” Jones said. “I mean, it’s just not a school activity. It takes parents, it takes community organizations. Everybody has a role to play in terms of educating kids.”
Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer, https://www.battlecreekenquirer.com
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