by Christie Tavera
Texas A&M Agrilife Extension has teamed up with Harlandale ISD’s Homer W. Schulze Elementary School for the “Learn, Grow, Eat & Go” program, an interactive classroom-to-garden experience.
The LGEG program is a new research and evidence-based curriculum project. Their mission is to grow good kids through an interdisciplinary program that combines academic achievement, gardening, nutrient-dense food experiences, physical activity and school and family engagement, according to their website.
Schulze Elementary kicked-off their program Feb. 8 at their garden spot located in the school’s central courtyard. Two classes of 3rd grade students gathered around Angie Gutierrez, or “Miss Angie,” County Extension Agent for Family Consumer Science to learn how to start their school garden.
First, Miss Angie explained how they would tend to the soil. Cupping her hand like a huge claw, she showed them how to scoop the soil, then explained the importance of fertilizer as food for the cauliflower, broccoli, onions and potatoes they would be planting . Once the kids had a good understanding, the Agrilife staff and the teachers organized the students around the larger white-stoned, raised garden bed.
Harlandale ISD Superintendent, Rey Madrigal and Bexar County Commissioner Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez joined the students as they learned to till the soil using small cultivator garden tools, and how to spread the fertilizer around the garden bed.
Opposite the main bed, there were smaller brown garden boxes where the students planted herbs, including rosemary, dill, and mint. After they had finished planting, each student took turns watering their newly planted gardens.
“To be touching the earth and experiencing the earth is an exciting experience for them,” said Andriana Aguilar-LaPoint, one of the teachers leading her class in this 10-week program.
Students will not only receive the hands-on gardening experience. Within the program curriculum are three kits Agrilife provides to the teachers. They include a nutrition kit with recipes and tools like measuring cups, bowls and other kitchen utensils for food preparation.
The Junior Master Gardener kit provides nutritional information and other instruction for classroom discussion. The last kit is called Walk Across Texas and is packed with items like hula hoops, cones and balls to teach the kids the importance of physical activity.
Students also receive a folder with the recipes they prepare in the classroom as well as nutritional information they can take home to share with their families.
Debra Hernandez-Moreno, one of the mothers in attendance for Wednesday’s garden party said, “I’m learning something along with them.”
Agrilife partners with 21 st Century funded schools, or schools with a lower income student population. They currently work with two other SAISD schools and are working to launch the program in other local San Antonio schools and districts.
“The thing I admire the most about this program is that it gives kids the opportunity to try things they normally wouldn’t try,” said Principal Sylvia Tovar. Tovar gave an example of one child relating rosemary back to the 2007 Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille.
For more information on the Learn, Grow, Eat & Go program, visit jmgkids.us or contact the local Texas A&M Agrilife Extension office at 210-631-0400.