Twice a week at Malcom Elementary School in Laguna Niguel, children like Heather Smith can’t wait to skip their lunchtime recess.
Instead of a game of four square or basketball on the playground, they stream into their school’s garden, push up their sleeves and get to work.
On this Thursday in late fall, that work is thinning and transplanting lettuce seedlings and planting carrot and radish seeds in the ground. Some kids scurry around on a “botany scavenger hunt,” using magnifying glasses to examine leaves’ shapes and characteristics.
Malcom Elementary was one of the first schools to participate in the Grow Your Own! organic garden program through the nonprofit Ecology Center (theecologycenter.org) in San Juan Capistrano.
“I don’t know of a school garden movement that’s bigger historically than what’s happening today. People are recognizing that simply learning in the classroom isn’t enough. That connection to the outdoors is essential to developing a whole education,” said Meg Hiesinger, who directs the Grow Your Own! program.
In 2010, the American Heart Association established a teaching gardens program with the goal of improving eating habits and cardiovascular health. The program operates more than 300 gardens nationwide, including 40 across Southern California. In Orange County, it has gardens at 14 schools in Garden Grove, Anaheim and Santa Ana.
The Heart Association has developed 35 garden-based lesson plans serving kindergarten through fifth grade, which it shares with educators, and maintains an online Garden Community (gardencommunity.heart .org) to answer questions and connect parents and teachers with resources.
read the whole article here