Janis Groomes, food service director at Northport Public Schools, knows the power of school gardens to get kids interested in eating fruits and vegetables, even ones that are unusual.

She was already serving healthy salads to her Leelanau County students, but even she was skeptical that they’d eat kale as an ingredient in the salad bar. She watched in amazement—and joy—a couple years ago when students’ eyes lit up in the lunch line when they saw kale as a choice, piled it onto their plates and gobbled it up. The reason: The children had grown kale like it in their school garden. Last year, Ms. Groomes thrilled the kids again when she cooked up potatoes that they’d actually grown.

An opportunity to help make more of these positive experiences happen at schools throughout northwest Lower Michigan is taking place February 26  in Traverse City with a school garden workshop planned for teachers and anyone interested in volunteering. MSU Extension, Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District and the Michigan Land Use Institute’s farm to school program are organizing the workshop, which has a February 19 registration deadline.

A survey conducted with area teachers by MSU Extension, TBAISD and MLUI showed that teachers see a great need for parent or community volunteers to help them in the garden in order to be a success.

Meanwhile, teachers also wanted lessons and ways to connect the garden to the teaching requirements they must meet.

Gardens can be a great outdoor classroom for teachers—a wondrous science lab, for example, or a place for kids to practice vocabulary and reading skills by creating garden journals and describing the different textures, tastes, scents and colors they experience among the plants. They also can learn math skills as they design garden beds; and social studies as they discover whether farmers in their community grow kale, potatoes or any other fruit or vegetable in the garden. And, of course, they learn how fruits and vegetables can make them healthy and strong, a part of health curriculum’s.

All of these topics will be addressed in the workshop, which will be led by Kristine Hahn, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and botany.  She has worked the past 15 years for Michigan State University Extension, first as a Horticulture Educator and currently as a Food Systems Educator. Kristine has extensive experience with education around school gardens, such as designing and delivering the annual teacher training program “Starting and Sustaining a School Garden” at the Michigan State University Tollgate Farm in Novi since 2012.  Hahn has also worked with local partners and the teachers at A. L. Holmes Detroit Public School to incorporate their school garden into the third, fourth and fifth grade science curriculum since 2011.

Learn more about the workshop and register here.

Diane Conners leads the farm to school program at the Michigan Land Use Institute. She also collaborates with TBAISD in farm to school and school garden program development.


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