Submitted by Dalton Public Schools
Brookwood Elementary School students got to play in the dirt as they finally got to plant their fall garden at the school.
The garden is part of a new project to teach the students about healthy food choices and how fresh food gets to the table. Principal Celeste Martin says the school has been working on the project for most of 2012 and is finally seeing plants go in the ground.
The school wanted to offer a way for students to learn about fresh food and how to make better food choices. Initially the school applied for a school nutrition grant to purchase a greenhouse where seeds could be sprouted and then a garden could be developed. The almost $9,000 grant paid for the materials to construct a greenhouse.
The United Way of Northwest Georgia decided to help the school out and make the project part of its “Make a Difference Day” last spring. United Way arranged for volunteers from Tandus to help prepare the land and build the greenhouse. By the time all the prep work was complete, the school year was over so the planting of the garden had to wait.
With the help of skilled parent volunteers — Horticulturist Anna Verhoeff, Agricultural Engineer Carmen Flammini and Master Gardener Henry Stephens — as well as the coordination efforts of Brookwood staff member Sarah Jaume, the school got busy once fall arrived.
Stephens and former Brookwood principal Will Esters tilled and prepared the soil so the students could start planting. Verhoeff and Flammini worked with the students to plant the seedlings that included red and green lettuce. Each Brookwood student got an experience in the garden with most actually planting a plant to get a feel for the tenderness of the young plants and the richness of the soil.
“I love to work with dirt and make the soil come alive with plants, “ said Flammini. “I’m so excited to get to use my skills here in the garden with the students. I love to see the elements — soil, water, plants and kids — work together.”
Flammini has two children at Brookwood, Valentina who is in the third grade and Augustino who is in the fifth grade.
“I like to play in the dirt and teach the kids where their food comes from,” said Verhoeff. “I grew up with my grandparents having a farm. I want the students to learn the planting and harvesting process of food.”
Verhoeff has two children at Brookwood — Joy who is a third-grader and Speer who is a first-grader.
Both say they are thrilled to see the kids working in the garden.
While Flammini and Verhoeff spent time helping strategically place each seeding in the ground, Stephens was doing the heavy lifting of carrying water to soak each plant. Stephens said his grandson Wesley Yarbrough is in the fourth grade and enjoyed seeing his granddad in the garden.
“He’s my buddy,” Stephens said. Stephens says he got involved with the garden to meet the volunteer requirements for master gardener but has enjoyed working with Esters to till the garden and prepare the soil for planting.
Martin says the students will pull weeds and maintain the garden during the growing season, and then the harvest of produce will be used in the school’s cafeteria to expose the students to some new foods.
“I think they’ll be much more likely to eat something they’ve never heard of if they’ve had some involvement in the growing of that food,” Martin said.