By: Judy Myers
Extension Educator & Co-facilitator for Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership with Bruce Vento Elementary School
Imagine a whole day devoted to schoolyard gardens. As a great champion for school and community gardens, Michelle Obama would have enjoyed seeing over 300 participants at the fourth annual Minnesota Schoolyard Coalition Conference at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Betti Wiggins, Executive Director, Detroit Public Schools’ Office of Nutrition described herself as “just a school cook.” Her keynote presentation certainly indicated she’s not “just anyone.” She has significantly changed the nutrition program in the Detroit school district where she’s taught food service workers the value of serving fresh foods from school gardens and a district school-run farm. She eliminated chocolate milk and French fries from school menus and introduced more fresh fruits and vegetables. Elementary students grow tomatoes, yellow squash, and peppers to make the “stop light salad” in their classrooms; high school students enjoy more variety at their salad bars.
Some of the afternoon breakout sessions included:
- STEM in the garden
- Winter gardening in Minnesota: Classrooms with a tower garden
- Garden to cafeteria.
Be sure to put this on your calendar for next year — the Landscape Arboretum posts announcements about this event every spring. With hundreds attending each year, this may indicate that more schools are discovering the benefits of growing their own gardens — they’re great therapeutic and learning spaces!
Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.