Growing Together with a Hands-On Approach

Growing Together with a Hands-On Approach

When students walked into Silver Creek Elementary School on the first day of school in September 2018, the district’s extended commitment to establishing an edible element to education was already under way. 

Over the summer, the district formalized a working relationship with the Chautauqua County Health Network to implement a tower garden program to promote nutrition, health education, sustainability and the idea of food security through staff leadership and student assistance.  The students and staff began working together in September to plant, maintain then harvest and clean the salad greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. Five fifth-graders were selected by their teachers to assist. By November, they’d grown and reaped enough to enjoy a homegrown – or school grown? –  salad lunch. 

School nurse Jennifer Johnson, who also heads the district’s Health and Wellness Committee, sees the tower garden as a big step forward in considering the possibilities when it comes to school nutrition. 

“Every day we watch the tower garden thrive and our students have a real investment in their efforts and its success,” says Johnson. “It is very satisfying for us all watch it happening together. And then be able to enjoy a healthy, hard-earned meal together is exciting for everyone.” 

Over the winter, the tower garden was relocated to the Elementary School’s library, where it is displayed prominently for all to enjoy. Librarian Paula Michalak is preparing to use it to study life cycles with Pre-Kindergarten students in Spring 2019. 

“We’ll grow greens like chard and spinach as well as herbs and cucumbers,” says Michalak. “The goal is to send home each Pre-K student with a bag of produce to share with their families.” 

SCES has an 18-month commitment to participate in this learning collaborative, but it has proved so popular with the students that the school intends to keep planting and producing for the forseeable future. Ideally, the district wants to incorporate produce grown on campus into the cafeteria salad bar.