SAN ANTONIO – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel, along with District 2 City Councilman Art Hall and representatives of area social organizations, recently came to Dorie Miller Elementary in San Antonio to kick off the Learn, Grow, Eat and Go! program.
“Learn, Grow, Eat and Go!, or LGEG, is a 10-week youth educational series of AgriLife Extension’s International Junior Master Gardener program.
“The goal of LGEG is to help kids develop better eating behaviors and get more physical activity,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent for Bexar County. “The curriculum was developed to engage kids in gardening, teach them about nutrition and healthy eating, and help them make better food choices. We also engage them in regular exercise as an aspect of their overall wellness.”
At the program kickoff, 18 third-graders from the school prepared, filled and planted a school garden plot, planting tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and other vegetables as well as herbs such as rosemary and mint. Students were supported in their efforts by third-grade teacher Leslie Moore, school administrators, representatives of the Rotary Club of San Antonio and Moussa TempleNo.106 Prince Hall Shriners organization and others.
Among the community volunteers was Gretchen Elkins, coordinator for the child nutrition program of the Region 20 Food and Nutrition Service.
“My department is associated with the Texas Department of Agriculture, so we’re very interested in teaching youth about healthy bodies and healthy minds,” she said. “One of the great lessons kids learn through the LGEG program is how a small seed can grow into something big that will benefit everyone.”
After the students planted the garden, Hall spoke to them about the importance of agriscience.
“A hands-on project like this helps you learn useful life skills and lessons you can apply to real life,” Hall said. “By planting, nurturing and harvesting these vegetables, you are learning important lessons like responsibility and self-sufficiency.”
Ruby Zavala, AgriLife Extension youth gardens coordinator for Bexar County, said the LGEG program also incorporates aspects of science, math, technology and more.
“This is a very hands-on program that allows students to apply a breadth of knowledge,” she said. “We present lessons that teach them about gardening, nutrition and healthy eating, but they also learn about entomology, earth science, ecology and the environment.”
Erika Alaman, AgriLife Extension health and wellness educator for Bexar County, said the program also helps young people expand their horizons.
“The kids become more interested in vegetables and want to try things they haven’t tried before,” Alaman said. “They get to touch, feel and taste the vegetables they grow, which is important since many of them have never seen a vegetable garden. And they get to learn how to use these vegetables in recipes they can share with their parents.”
Moore said she wanted the kickoff to be something her students would remember.
“Some of my fondest memories from school were when I was in a gardening club,” she said. “I want my students to learn about gardening and to have a respect for nature.”
School principal Dr. Chris Weiland said the LGEG program will serve to enhance classroom instruction.
“Having the kids grow plants will teach them about the plant life cycle, and they will also learn about nutrition, healthy living and how to be self-sustaining,” she said. “What they learn through this program will help them with their academic skills requirements.”
Weiland said she also hopes to expand the garden to make it more of a community garden from which others can benefit.
“We’d like the parents to be involved in the garden and hope we can get even more of the community involved,” she said. “This could be a great learning and community-building opportunity.”
By: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Angie Gutierrez, 210-631-0400, email@example.com
Ruby Zavala, 210-631-0400, firstname.lastname@example.org