School Gardens: Creating Ideas for Creative Writing and Positive Attitudes Towards Healthy Foods by Fallon Bader
Wilson Middle school is located in the international district of Albuquerque; a neighborhood with low access and attitudes towards healthy foods. While the neighborhood may lack in fresh, local veggies, Wilson Middle School has taken a different direction. Over the last 5 years a group of ambitious teachers have built a thriving school garden. The garden contains various fruits and vegetables, an edible forest, and even a large pond (with edible plants growing in it!).
One of my tasks as a FoodCorps service member working with Wilson was to integrate more teachers into the school garden. The garden was mainly being used by science classes, but a school garden can serve as a stimulating learning environment for any subject. I was told that the 6th grade language arts teacher was interested in collaborating with me to create some lessons that would combine creative writing and the school garden. I was instantly excited as creative writing was a subject I enjoyed in middle school and it I knew the opportunities were endless.
We first began with using the garden as a space to practice similes and metaphors. After going over the definitions of both, we headed outside to use all 5 senses to inspire ideas for our creative writing. The simple act of the students getting out of the classroom and exploring the beautiful garden created an engaging learning environment.
Another lesson I created was called “Word Art in the Garden”. I had students choose something growing or item they found in the garden (i.e. fence, hole, log). They then had to use their 5 senses to list descriptive words about their chosen object. Then they used these words to create a picture of their item. The students created creative and beautiful artwork that the language arts teacher displayed outside of her classroom.
When you think of middle school poetry combined with nature, what comes to mind? Haikus! Is there a better place to practice writing Haikus than a garden? I had the students circle up outside, read examples of haikus aloud, and then try some vegetables that were growing outside. They had to take notes on what they were trying, and then choose a vegetable to write a haiku about. The students came up with some really creative haikus while trying new foods from the garden at the same time. My personal favorite haiku about edible flowers is pictured below. Even though the student didn’t like what they tried, at least they tried it! Exposure is the first step to getting students to try new foods and creating positive eating behaviors. And sometimes you just have to laugh at what students come up! I most students did like the different vegetables we tried in the garden.
In addition to working with the language arts teacher, I also worked with 6th grade history teacher to create lessons that integrated the school garden as well. This multi-subject collaboration created repeated exposure to healthy foods in an engaging way throughout various subjects. Why is this important? Because most of the students have never tried or aren’t regularly served greens like spinach, arugula, chard, or kale at home. So when they show up in their school lunches, even something as simple as a spinach salad, where does most of that food go? The garbage. But, if we expose the students to these foods in a positive and engaging way, they will be more apt to try and consume them. We need a to create a culture shift where people want to consume healthier foods, and school gardens are an effective tool to do this.