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School granted money for garden program: Microsoft providing $25K to San Bruno’s Rollingwood Elementary

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Promoting healthy eating and wellness is the idea behind a $25,000 grant over two to three years recently given to San Bruno’s Rollingwood Elementary School through Microsoft and the American Heart Association.

Microsoft donated the money to the American Heart Association’s Teaching Gardens Program, which works to combat childhood obesity by promoting healthier eating and increased physical activity by helping schools set up gardens on campus. One third of U.S. children are overweight or obese putting them at higher risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the association.

“We like starting young,” said Camie Sanchez, a community relations director for the American Heart Association. “It’s about getting education and awareness out early. Not just treating it, but trying to prevent it. … Schools that have a need that we can step in and fulfill.”

Once a school commits to the program, a schoolwide planting day is scheduled. The American Heart Association provides the materials for planting day, garden beds, organic soil, seedlings and plants, cooking demonstrations and other activities. The program offers schools curriculum and tools, having students establish their own sustainable gardens with seasonal vegetables such as snow peas, arugula and cauliflower.

This garden in particular will be used to connect students with topics that could include life cycles; animal and plant interactions; companion planting; art; drought resistant planting; building habitats; changing environments; taking care of living things; art; and attracting certain pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds, according to the grant.

“We actually want the schools to champion them,” Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, the district is pleased with the grant.

“The grant is important because it represents another successful partnership between our schools and community to promote wellness through sound nutrition,” Superintendent David Hutt wrote in an email. “The district has received similar grants, although this is a significant level of support to incorporate sustainability with developing behaviors of students.”

Having a teaching garden will assist in creating different outdoor teaching spaces that would encourage students to gather together to share, learn and discuss different topics, according to the grant.

“Sitting in a garden can be a powerful experience,” Rollingwood Principal Leigh Schwartz wrote in the grant. “We would like to give students the opportunity to be still; observe the natural world; think and reflect in nature; and connect their school experience to real world activities.”

More than just reading about a subject in a textbook, students will be able to investigate, make judgments and explore a topic in greater depth in the garden, Schwartz wrote in an email. 

“The new standards are asking schools to challenge students to support their opinions with facts and to think critically about what they are learning,” she wrote. “Having a teaching garden gives students access to a place they can try out their hypothesis, learn through observation and work with other students collaboratively on projects related to the garden.” 

The school began a recycling and composting program this year focusing on conserving and reusing resources. The garden will also include composting activities.

“This is a great way to show students the complete cycle,” Schwartz wrote.

For more information on the program visit heart.org and click on the “Getting Healthy” tab.

angela@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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