Gardening grows benefits

Published 10:18 pm Thursday, October 11, 2012

The eagerness of the children who are members of Creekside Elementary’s Gator Gardening Club was clear to see at the school Tuesday.

The four of them, three fourth-graders and a third-grader, headed out to the vegetable patch with smiling faces and shovels tucked under their arms.

Led by teacher Natalie Street, they worked to prepare the soil for fall vegetables — squash, carrots, lettuce, and maybe even onions.

Email newsletter signup

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

The club is part of Suffolk Public Schools’ Challenge Clubs, made possible with funding from the Obici Healthcare Foundation.

Of all the community health initiatives the foundation supports, this one could have the most impact relative to dollars spent.

A few shovels, a couple of planks of lumber and nails for the beds, some gardening gloves, a handful of seed packets and some fertilizer, and the children are on their way to a lifetime of homegrown vegetables.

As a vegetable gardener myself — with varying degrees of success — I can attest there’s nothing like returning from the garden to the kitchen with dinner.

Since one must invest a fair bit of time and sweat in growing those vegetables, which it would be a shame to waste, they are more likely to be on the menu than takeout.

Other Suffolk public schools, including Kilby Shoes, Booker T. Washington, Southwestern and Northern Shores elementary schools, are establishing gardens, according to district Wellness Coach Tara Worley.

On a recent visit to JFK Middle, I learned the school is in the process of setting up a special high-yield vegetable-growing operation, which we aim to report more on in the future.

The earth we walk upon is capable of much more than supporting the foundations of shopping malls and parking lots, and it’s nice to know that more Suffolk children, as a result of forward-thinking teachers and administrators and the legacy of a peanut seller (though we all know Amedeo Obici was more than that alone), are learning this.

The school gardens will bring even more benefits when students return to the classroom to learn about the science behind the vegetables they have grown.

They will also be more physically active, learn how to use gardening implements (many kids don’t get the chance to shovel dirt these days), and learn teamwork, which Street says is one of the major benefits of the Gator club.