Boulder Elementary School
At Boulder Elementary School 72% of the students in Kindergarten through 6th grade qualify for free or reduced lunches (2011 OPI data). Also according to a recent article in USA Today, today's youth are spending on the average 53+ hours a week in front of electronics of some sort. Obesity rates relate to this sedentary trend, shown in statistics from 2007 Montana had 25.6% of youth that were overweight or obese. Findings from a February 1st, 2011 BMI that our county health nurses performed for Boulder Elementary School's Afterschool Program; we found that among our students currently, 34% are considered overweight or obese. With our high rates of poverty and obesity in mind, our educational programming addresses these issues by connecting students with nature, also by including programming centered around nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
Our aim is to use outdoor and greenhouse agricultural gardening for the classroom and community as a means for education. In school cross-curricular education as well as adult education can offer local families with tools to help them produce their own food, learn about local food networks, among other important educational opportunities including nutrition and healthy lifestyles. For the past 10 years Boulder Elementary School’s 21st Century Afterschool and Summer School Programs have used gardening as a means to educate our students and community.
"An environment-based education movement--at all levels of education--will help students realize that school isn't supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world."
— Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder)
History of 21st Century Garden Program
Boulder's 21st Century Garden Program started as a service project to help local elders with their gardens. The program has flourished over the past 10 years to include year-round garden education, by using an outdoor classroom that has raised beds, and a greenhouse, also by utilizing a donated garden area on Main Street.
Through our gardening program students are able to follow the garden in a full year-round circle. During the Afterschool Program the youth plan and pepare the garden beds then plant seeds indoors in spring. They transplant seedlings then care for the garden and harvest throughout the 8-week Summer Program. Harvesting and preserving continues into the fall. Included in the annual programming is a harvest festival to celebrate the successes of the year. Through programming, students have the opportunity to learn how to prepare and preserve the fresh produce from the gardens during the Summer and Afterschool Programs.
Through our 21st Century Program, we have successfully sponsored adult and family education in gardening and preserving. Students feel pride when their produce is served to the whole Summer or Afterschool Program. We supplement the students' lunches during the summer, and include harvested vegetables in the Afterschool Program. The students' sense of pride is reinforced when they are able to prepare and cook for their families from harvested produce, they also can share health benefits with produce taken home from the garden.
Boulder Farmer's Market
As an entrepennurial program, the youth participate in the Boulder Farmer's Market. They harvest fruits and vegetables from the gardens, then set up a booth at the farmer's market to raise money for our scholarship fund that pays for student and family activities throughout the year. By participating in the Boulder Farmer's Market, students are taught about job skills including; punctuality, good communication, how to conduct themselves professionally, and how to handle money. Students have the opportunity to learn how to approach people, talk to them about our 21st Century Programs, learn how to take money and give change; skills they will use throughout life.
Our school garden provides fresh veggies for lunch during the 21st Century's eight-week Summer Program, and snack during the Afterschool Program. Lunches during the school year are supplemented by our greenhouse and garden area. Since our kitchen cooks for both the grade school and high school during the school year, the fresh produce benefit students at Boulder Elementary School as well as Jefferson High School.
Through this gardening program, we have the unique opportunity to change behavioral patterns. Students are more likely to try produce that they had a hand in growing or preparing. Once educated on the health benefits, students may choose to try it. Another way we can change behavioral pattern is through food tasting events where we can highlight different fresh produce. Students can be the instigators of change when they take seedlings home, and ask that they start a family garden.
The need for innovation in Math and science education is evident in our nationwide slump in test scores related to those subjects. Our gardening/greenhouse area has the unique opportunity to address these subjects with a hands on, experiential approach.There is mounting evidence that students who participate in school gardening score significantly higher on standardized science achievement tests (Klemmer, et.al. 2005).
Through our school greenhouse and garden area, we have the unique opportunity to reach out to faimilies, and community members by holding educational classes about "how to save money" by gardening, cooking and preserving. In todays society where choices make the difference in ones life, making wise decisions about food will help our population become, and remain healthy, limiting obesity, and shift the reliance to a local food network.
Innovative entrepenurial education is provided to students participating in the Boulder Farmer's Market. Every season some of our produce is sold at the Farmer's Market to help provide sustainability for our educational gardening program.
Students have the unique opportunity to take produce home with knowledge of how to prepare, what recipes to use, and benefits of the produce grown. Part of the 21st Century Programs originality is that the students' gardens helps supplement families of students in our programs with fresh local food.