School gardening clubs cultivate healthy habits

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When the inside classroom lessons were over at Creekside Elementary Tuesday, lessons in the outside classroom were just beginning for members of the school’s Gator Gardening Club.

The club currently has four members, fourth-graders Shalon Whitfield, Megan Miniard and Kayla Lambert, and third-grader Jordan Daniels. Teacher Natalie Street leads them in the art of raising seeds into food and flowers.

Shalon Whitfield, Megan Miniard, Jordan Daniels and Kayla Lambert, student members of Creekside Elementary School’s Gator Gardening Club, get their hands in some dirt Tuesday with teacher Natalie Street.

“They really do everything themselves,” Street said. “I think the biggest benefit is the teamwork. Nowadays they don’t really get a lot of outside activities … these kids are using muscles they never knew they had.”

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District Wellness Coach Tara Worley wrote in an email that the Creekside gardening club is part of Suffolk Public Schools’ Challenge Clubs.

Kilby Shores, Booker T. Washington, Southwestern and Northern Shores elementary schools will also be part of the “wellness pilot,” but are yet to get started, she wrote.

The Gator Gardening Club started with six members, Street said. Its first project was to beautify the front of the school with bushes and flowers, and the latest project is fall vegetables.

After the final bell on Tuesday, the club’s four young members marched happily from their classrooms to an electrical closet where the implements and supplies are kept.

Street handed them each a shovel, and they marched on outside and got to work on two four-foot square beds.

They built the beds themselves with a little help from Street and her husband.

“You get to garden and you get to plant seeds,” Megan said of the club’s attraction. “We will water them and then they will grow, and then maybe (we will) make a salad.”

Shalon said, “I like to get messy and I like shoveling the dirt. It’s fun; I’ve never done anything like it before.”

Jordan agreed that the gardening club is fun, while Kayla shared that while she likes carrots, squash is not her favorite.

The fall crop will include squash, carrots, lettuce and possibly onions, Street said, adding that the club teaches healthy eating habits, and the produce will be taken back to the inside classroom for some scientific analysis.

“If anything, the teachers will benefit from it,” she said, adding that staff members will probably take the fresh vegetables home.