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Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Gardening

May 5, 2014 | Community News, Trenton

On May 5th, Paul Robeson Elementary School in Trenton added gardening to its curriculum when students, faculty, parents and members of the community gathered to open an American Heart Association Teaching Garden on the school grounds. The garden is part of an education initiative to help build healthy bodies and minds. Representatives from the American Heart Association, New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton (NJPHK-Trenton) and Living Hope Empowerment Center (LHEC) joined in the May 5th Plant Day Celebration.

Aimed at first- through fifth-graders, the garden will be a hands-on experience enabling children to learn how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits.

Garden-themed lessons will teach students about nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while having fun in the fresh air and working with their hands.

The Teaching Garden was created using American Heart Association science and nutrition guidelines, as well as information from gardening and education experts. The garden is a real-life “laboratory” with programming that combines nutrition education with garden-based learning. Numerous studies have shown that participating in school garden programs can improve students’ attitudes about fruits and vegetables.

Marissa Davis, NJPHK-Trenton project manager said, “Studies show that kids who are healthy are proven to have higher academic performance. The partnership has been working with the school and the Living Hope Empowerment Center to connect Paul Robeson staff and students with the resources that will help them live healthier lives.”

“We hope that interest in the school garden will extend to community gardening,” said Francis Blanco, executive director of the Living Hope Empowerment Center (LHEC). LHEC, located on Farragut Avenue near the school, has a large community garden on its grounds. “Ideally we want children to continue gardening outside of school hours and for the kids, parents and other neighbors to use the LHEC garden as their community garden. Children can be very vocal and passionate spokespeople by sharing what they learn with their parents and extended community.”

Blanco sees the school and community gardens as places where the community can come together, be neighbors, and get involved in eating better – “a safe haven for recreation, community and healthy living.”

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