Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2018 issue.
Planting the seed in children’s education, the Growe Foundation believes in hands-on learning to empower children through clean eating and environmental sustainability. This Boulder-based organization is at the forefront of an educational movement using gardens as living classrooms. The Growe Foundation develops online lesson plans that not only grow students’ connection to mind and body, but contain Colorado State Standards approved subjects like math and science that are applied directly into the garden.
“Through the hands-on learning, what students learn in the garden has real-life application,” says Lisa Atallah, executive director. “Children don’t only understand, but embrace it.”
Founded by New Zealand native Bryce Brown in 2006, the nonprofit brings its Garden to Table educational program to 19 schools across the Boulder Valley School District, and one self-sufficient Denver public elementary school. The implementation process varies off of each school’s needs, but routinely consists of providing tools to install and upkeep a school garden, and also the online lesson plans teachers use for their classes. Based off a survey funded by the City of Boulder Health Equity program, student test scores have risen across the board from the experiential learning program.
“There is a huge health problem with people not understanding what they are putting into their bodies,” says Atallah.
Children are being fed advertisements in the media that are detrimental to their health. According to statistics provided on Growe’s website, 98 percent of the $2 billion in food and beverage advertisements viewed by children are for products that are high in fat, sugar or sodium. Transforming students’ connection to food by having direct contact with it’s growth and harvest process has lasting results.
“Impacting their understanding at an early age sets a healthy life pattern for how they will live and eat” says Atallah. “There is a lot behind our eating choices.”
The goal is for students to implement what they learn at school to their home life through practices such as composting, preparing fruits and vegetables in the kitchen and, most importantly, compassion.
A major value for this organization is a zero waste principle; Flatirons Elementary School donated 128 pounds of food after their harvest to Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA), a local organization devoted to helping community members experiencing food scarcity. It’s a win-win: there is not only more than enough food for the children, but extra to be donated to the community.
Student’s also learn economics as they build community in an academic setting. Many schools choose to partake in Fall Harvest at the Boulder Farmers Market, where students price and sell their vegetables to local community members.
With sponsors like Whole Foods, results have shown success thus far: 93 percent of 4th graders say the garden nutrition lesson motivated them to try eat more fruits and vegetables and 98 percent of 5th graders say that climate lesson in the garden helped them care more about the environment in a 2012 survey.
Growe is always looking for more support from volunteers or donations. Their annual fall fundraising event, Savor & Sample: A Growe Garden Gala, is a night for parents and community members to unite and raise money for their school’s gardens. Local restaurants serve garden-focused food and all ticket sales directly fund the Garden to Table Program.
Check out volunteer opportunities and the fundraiser event at www.growefoundation.org or contact [email protected].