Jacqueline Holmes, a fourth-grade teacher at Triangle Elementary School, has been awarded a $2,500 grant from the American Heart Association (AHA) Teaching Gardens Network grant program.
The program received applications from almost 500 schools nationwide. Triangle, through Holmes’ application, was one of 50 schools to receive the grant. The American Heart Association, in collaboration with Kelly Meyer, founder of OneSun; and Gail Becker, CEO of Caulipower, are providing the funds to boost garden-based learning to support healthy food access and innovation in nutrition education.
“Less than 1 percent of children are eating ideal healthy diets and under 10 percent have reasonably healthy diets,” Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer for Prevention and chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation for the American Heart Association, said in a news release sent by the association.
American Heart Association Teaching Gardens are real-life laboratories for students to learn what it means to be healthy and how fruits and vegetables contribute to a balanced diet. School gardens pair a hands-on experience with an interactive nutrition curriculum to help students understand the importance of healthy food choices. Through the Teaching Garden Network, schools have access to free garden resources and curriculum to help their gardens become Teaching Gardens®.
At Triangle Elementary, Holmes uses a school garden to teach her students science, reading, writing, math and engineering. She won the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom’s (FAITC) Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award for 2018, and in 2016 her garden project was such a success that the district received a grant to start gardens at 30 other schools across the county.
Holmes’ students chart the growth of plants in their journals, calculate fertilizer amounts and evaporation rate, experiment with new seeds such as luffa, recycle cafeteria waste by using milk containers to start seeds, compost leftover fruits and vegetables, and much more.
“The Teaching Gardens elevate the conversation of health to the community level and brings together the essential decision-makers who can successfully impact the learning opportunities about and accessibility to the nutritious foods kids need to be healthy,” Sanchez said.