BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, IL (September 23, 2013) – Over the past week, students at Pepper Ridge Elementary School and Cedar Ridge Elementary enjoyed two abundant harvests. Students had the opportunity to pull produce from the gardens and taste fruits and vegetables from nearly every color of the rainbow, learning about the food’s benefits of a healthy diet.
But not only the students benefited from the two gardens – the community was also on the receiving end of these gardens that are managed by school garden champions.
“We had such a large harvest that I was able to make three trips to the Western Avenue Community Center,” said Anne Bare, 2nd Grade teacher and Garden Champion at Cedar Ridge Elementary School. The school also plans to donate a portion of its pumpkin harvest to a nearby church.
Families in the districts were active in both gardens over the summer, assisting with watering, weeding and harvesting the produce. Pepper Ridge Elementary School’s Promise Council also delivered produce to many families in their district throughout the summer months.
When the students came back in August, they went right back to participating in gardening activities. Pepper Ridge students started a garden club to maintain the garden activities, and Cedar Ridge students have even made the garden a popular “hang-out” area after the school added a glider, a picnic table, and even scarecrows for the fall season. “The students love being in the garden,” said Mrs. Bare. “They share their experiences with their parents, and many of them even have gardens at home now.”
The outcomes of the gardens are a vision come to life through a partnership with the American Heart Association and Advocate BroMenn Medical Center that started about two years ago. The American Heart Association developed the Teaching Garden program through its My Heart. My Life initiative, which was created to teach kids about the importance of nutrition and a heart-healthy lifestyle through an interactive, educational experience. The American Heart Association provides the curriculum to the schools, integrating math, science and nutritional education, with the hope that students will come home with an eagerness to eat more fruits and vegetables. Advocate BroMenn Medical Center sponsored each garden, making it possible to implement the program at each school.
“It’s been such an uplifting experience for us to first attend the schools’ Planting Days and then come back again for the harvest,” said Colleen Kannaday, president of Advocate BroMenn Medical Center. “To see the excited kids planting seeds in the spring, and then in the fall to see the bumper crop that has come from their hard work is truly rewarding. We have been so pleased to sponsor an activity that not only lets children go outside and get their hands in the earth, but also gets them interested in learning about and eating fruits and vegetables.”
The American Heart Association is also thrilled to see the program serving the greater community. “This is beyond what we could have hoped for the teaching garden program,” said Melissa Chrisman, Corporate Events Director for the American Heart Association. “Our first and main concern was to see that the students were learning about leading a heart-healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition. But to see that trickle effect on the community is amazing.”
Both schools aren’t stopping with this fall harvest. Both are planning to plant cool weather crops such as lettuce, spinach and carrots, and are looking forward to planning for the spring planting season.
“We’re hoping to add more picnic benches so a whole class could sit around the garden to read, eat lunch or just to hang out,” said Mrs. Bare.
For more information on the teaching garden program, visit www.heart.org/teachinggardens.
Carrie Skogsberg, American Heart Association
217-698-3838 ext 5; email@example.com
Eric Alvin, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center
About Advocate BroMenn Medical Center
Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, located in Bloomington-Normal, has been serving and caring for the people of central Illinois for more than 115 years. As the health care leader in McLean County, BroMenn provides healing and innovation, while simultaneously offering the warm touch of professional caregivers who form the BroMenn family.
A 221-bed hospital renowned for its neuro, cardiac, orthopedic and women’s services, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center is also a teaching facility, offering residency programs in Neurosurgery, Family Practice and Clinical Pastoral Education. Part of Advocate Health Care, the facility has won several awards for clinical quality and patient satisfaction. BroMenn also has several active partnerships with other organizations, including a community cancer center, an Advanced MRI site, a sports enhancement center, a sleep disorders center, an addiction recovery unit, and an assisted living facility.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Our mission is to build healthier lives by preventing, treating and defeating these diseases – America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers. We fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health. To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit heart.org.