Heather Henderson is on a mission at some Pinellas County schools as the garden director for the Edible Peace Patch Project, a non-profit based in St. Petersburg. The project began in 2009 and aims to teach wellness and establish healthy eating habits to children attending Title I schools and, by extension, their families.
Gulfport Elementary School is one of seven schools benefitting from educational gardens built by the group’s staff and its volunteers. In partnership with the school board, an eight-week science curriculum that includes math pairs traditional classroom instruction with state-of-the-art, hands-on urban gardening techniques for each student in third, fourth and fifth grades. Soon, students in kindergarten through third grades will also be included.
In addition to teaching the standards that students need to reach as part of their grade level, the gardens produce “fruits and vegetables for students and families to take home,” said Henderson. “We have a harvest festival at the end of every semester at each school where students are able to try different dishes that are made from the produce that they’ve been growing.”
As part of their learning experience, students are encouraged to touch and taste test the produce.
“When a kid munches on a radish, I’m not like ‘Oh no! That’s for the harvest.’ The produce is here for education and not for production,” said Henderson. “Students come out once-a-week following a curriculum that flows from seed all the way to harvest.”
For more information about the project, volunteer opportunities or how to become a community food partner, visit peacepatch.org.