- Associated Press - Monday, June 15, 2015

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) - Last week marked the end of a 43-year career for Roosevelt Elementary School teacher Christina Campbell.

She has spent the last 30 years at Roosevelt as a kindergarten, first-, third- and fourth-grade teacher.

“This is where I went to kindergarten in 1955,” Campbell said. “I lived in this neighborhood.”

In her last year at the school, Campbell got to do something “really cool” with her kindergarten class: maintaining the school’s garden. Three kindergarten classes enjoyed student-grown spinach, lettuce and radishes for lunch on Campbell’s final Monday in the classroom. It was the second time students have produced food from the garden this school year, The Janesville Gazette (https://bit.ly/1F6wedL ) reported.

“They are very helpful in the garden,” Campbell said. “They are excited and are always looking to tell me when it’s time to water when they go out for recess. After school, while they’re waiting for their parents, they’ll go pull weeds out. They are very excited to be part of it.”

Campbell said the students helped clean out the garden, pull weeds, plant the seeds and water the plants while growing. The students then helped wash, spin and cut the vegetables to prepare them for lunch.

In each of the four years the garden has been at Roosevelt, a different grade has maintained the garden, Campbell said. This year, it was the kindergarten students.

The idea started with a group of teachers who built the four raised beds and allowed anyone who planted food to take it home. Now, it’s folded into the curriculum at the school.

In kindergarten, students were visited by UW Extension agents to learn about food and farming. They tasted various items brought in by the UW instructors.

“They all tasted it,” Campbell said. “They get rewarded for trying it, and that really helped. I have some fussy eaters, but everybody tried it.

“It was all part of one big unit, but the garden project just kind of fell into it,” she said.

Kindergarten teacher Amy Cleasby, who joined in the garden project along with Josette Spangenberg and Campbell, said her students really loved it.

“In kindergarten, it’s about making real world connections,” Cleasby said. “That’s how they learn. We want them to learn that when they go to Woodman’s, things don’t just appear on the shelf. You have to grow it. It’s a process.”

Serving at school the food grown by students was a goal from the beginning, Campbell said.

“It’s just a good age to get them started and to get them interested,” Campbell said. “It gets them talking about healthier foods.”

Jim Degan, manager of food services for the district, said schools such as Roosevelt and Jackson elementary schools, which also have gardens, connect students to the food they eat.

“I think the school gardens are a fantastic thing because it connects the children to where their food comes from,” Degan said. “They can visualize it, and to me, that’s huge. Knowing that potatoes come from under the ground and become French fries is a huge connection for kids because they have no idea.”

Degan said that Roosevelt students consume more than 2,000 meals each week. It’s important for them to take ownership and get involved, he said.

“One huge connect that I’ve found is when I offer spinach at a school where the kids don’t know where it’s coming from or have a hand in growing it we get 10 percent of the kids to eat it, and that’s pretty good,” Degan said.

“At Roosevelt, the spinach that the students grew, was cut by them, was washed and cleaned and we served at lunch, 50 percent of the kids ate it,” he said. “It’s just a huge connection that they take pride in what they’re doing.

“They’re growing it—seeing it going from a seed to plants and knowing that’s part of their meal. I think that’s fantastic.”

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Information from: The Janesville Gazette, https://www.gazetteextra.com


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