I Live “United” – Kathy Byron

fsg-ty-photoThe CIS FirstSchool Gardens create a vibrant atmosphere where alliances, opportunities and connections take place. This project allows me to involve Communities In Schools in all aspects of the community from young to old, manufacturer to builder, corporate sponsor to neighborhood organization. Everyone can put their hands around and into this endeavor. There are no barriers to participation, from the non-English speaking parent to the board room executive. It reveals the value of community partnerships coming together to deal with national and regional issues such as childhood obesity and environmental sustainability.

Student health and well being is at the center of the FirstSchool Garden Program. Working directly with children in the garden makes it possible for me to combine hands on learning experiences with helping students develop lifelong healthy nutrition and physical activity behaviors. The lessons learned in the garden can reach beyond the school yard into their homes, families and community. The children see firsthand that they can make a difference. They plant a seed, tend the plant as it grows, harvest the results and take pride in the role they have played in the collective undertaking. As part of that journey, they have participated in a process that tries to cultivate an enthusiasm for learning.

In schools with FirstSchool Gardens, the garden becomes a vehicle for education, an outdoor classroom where learning opportunities are endless. Teachers bring students to the garden as part of an integrated FirstSchool Garden Program. It unites work in the classroom with work in the garden. I make every effort to encourage studentsb appreciation of the work and science behind the garden activities as well as linking all curriculum standards into practical application. In addition to healthy living, we explore subject areas such as math, engineering, water conservation, and in general expand studentsb knowledge of the world around them. The garden has served as a venue for educational programs that support the connection for schools and community through participation in activities like the Urban Farm Tour and parent workshops.

By assimilating all of these elements into the CIS FirstSchool Garden, I live bUnitedb as the Program Director of a project that strives to promote healthy eating and moving more for students in Moore County.