Students earn their green thumb

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Culver City elementary schools are participating in GrowingGreat, a nonprofit school garden and nutrition education organization.

GrowingGreat’s garden program actively involves students in the process of planting, tending, harvesting, eating, and selling organic produce.

“It’s been a good experience, because we can pick the vegetables we planted and make a salad,” said Josh Walton Schwartz, a student at Linwood Howe Elementary School.

The program is based on standard curriculum where nutrition literally comes to life.

Laura Lee, the program coordinator at Linwood Howe, organized the third grade winter harvest salad party.

“It has been an incredible experience leading the GrowingGreat program at Linwood Howe. I’ve been teaching grades three through five the nutrition portion of the curriculum for the past two years,” said Lee.

Planters were built by Vista Builders three years ago, and the Culver City Education Foundation provided funds for the irrigation system needed to complete the project.

The students grow produce from this organic garden and volunteer docents teach the children to make healthy food choices.

“This year, with grant money we received through the CCEF, we were able to irrigate our garden area and install our first organic vegetable garden. Now grades K-5 get to plant their own veggies,” said Lee.

GrowingGreat trains the volunteers before they go into classrooms to deliver each lesson. Lessons are delivered at consistent intervals and build upon each other, allowing the students to absorb and understand what they’ve learned.

“The third graders loved eating the salad after harvesting the lettuce. Kids were asking for third servings. We had to scrape the salad bowl to the very bottom to feed our hungry salad eaters,” said parent Leah Nico.

Students experience new foods while learning about seasonality, life cycles and sustainable food production.

“My parents made me the official family salad maker,” said Ava Dyborn, a third-grader.

During the winter, students harvest their fall gardens and eat the food during classroom harvest celebrations.

“In October, each class planted their first crop. We just enjoyed our first week of harvest parties, where the kids got to harvest the vegetables that they had grown and enjoy a big salad together,” said Lee.

On Jan. 25, the GrowingGreat organization participated at The Taste of La Ballona, where the students learned about eating a healthy lunch.

“I really like growing our own food,” said third-grader Izzy Kessner.

In other lessons, the children help prepare the garden debris for composting, which they turn, maintain and use to improve the soil for future plantings.

The surplus of vegetables are sold at a student-run school farmers’ market, with the proceeds reinvested in the garden.

“On Feb. 1, Linwood Howe Elementary School will host a farmers market with the produce left over after from winter garden,” said parent Angela Dyborn.

The GrowingGreat program provides schools an easy-to-use platform to begin a successful and sustainable garden program.

 “There are so many lessons the kids can learn through planting their own food. Perhaps the most important lesson, is keeping them connected to the earth. Teaching them that eating whole foods, close to their source, will make them thrive mentally and physically.  Letting them grow and taste these foods lets them know that whole foods can be delicious and not all foods come in packages,” said Lee.

Students earn their green thumb