Danayah Goodman no longer chooses chips and cookies at snack time. Thanks to the Scotchtown Hills Elementary School’s fruit and vegetable garden, the third grader now opts for healthier alternatives.
“The garden has helped me make smarter choices because it makes me think about what to eat,” Goodman said. “It makes me think to eat vegetables and fruit more often.”
The garden was created in May, after the Laurel Home Depot donated six 32-by-40 inch beds, two apple trees and two pear trees to the Dorset Road elementary school. In the six months since the school celebrated the inception of the garden, they’ve grown corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, lettuce, beets, watermelons, cucumbers and sunflowers.
The donation came after fourth grade teacher Jessica Harvey, the Green Team’s leader, and third grade teacher Erin Roller, the Healthy School’s program leader, met with the University of Maryland’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Together, they planned and planted the now-blossoming garden near the playground at the school.
“The kids learn about cleaning the fruits and vegetables, weeding the garden, planting the seeds and eating healthy foods” said Harvey, who has been teaching at Scotchtown for nine years. “Some of the kids just don’t know that cheap food is mostly fattening food, so we try to teach that instead of chips, you can get pretzels. The garden helps us teach the kids about making smarter, healthier choices.”
See what other area schools are doing to promote healthy eating by reading our Lunch Lessons series.
The teachers at Scotchtown also incorporate the garden into their math, science and geography lessons. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation helped teachers create a curriculum that uses the garden in almost every lesson.
“We have math lessons, like if you have 10 tomatoes and I take away three, how many are left? Or, why do plants need the sun? Why will they grow in one area but not another? The lessons vary by grade level,” Harvey said.
The garden is used by a kindergarten class, two first grade classes, Roller’s third grade class, all three fourth grade classes and two fifth grade classes. Harvey said she hopes they can find enough donations to build three more beds so each grade at Scotchtown can have its own.
Harvey also said her hope is to one day be able to have enough fruits and vegetables that the cafeteria can serve them during lunch, instead of just eating them in the classroom as they do now. She also hopes they can use the garden as compost during the off-season so they don’t have to purchase soil every year.
While Harvey and Roller have big dreams for the garden, the students who learn from it are enthralled by the planting and learning processes alike.
“They love it,” said Roller, who has been teaching at the elementary school for seven years. “They love getting their hands dirty and using the tools and watering the plants. We went out on last Friday and we planted some seeds for kale and mixed lettuce and they’ve started to sprout and the kids are so excited about that.”
And Goodman, one of Roller’s students, agrees.
"I enjoy planting things,” the third grader said. “I like to go out and make holes and stuff and make a plant grow. By the time we get back outside we can look at the plants, talk about them, and see how the soil, water, and sun helps it grow."