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Cordova Elementary School students sitting outside, learning about gardening.

CORDOVA, Ala. — Students at Cordova Elementary School are learning about eating healthy and living sustainably by growing their own food in school gardens. Ginger Eatman, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) regional agent for Marion and Walker counties, helps students from kindergarten to fourth grade learn about gardening and health in fun ways that go beyond regular class lessons.

Hands-On Learning

The project, originally launched through SNAP-Ed programs, began five years ago when a section of the schoolyard was transformed into raised garden beds. Now, students eagerly take part in planting and maintaining the gardens each year. The hands-on learning style of these gardens not only teaches lifelong gardening skills but it also promotes physical activity. Before the students begin planting, Eatman teaches them how growing vegetables can be good for them through special lessons designed for young students.

“Teaching children about healthy eating and sustainable agriculture through gardening not only provides practical skills but also instills an understanding that choosing vegetables is part of a healthy lifestyle,” Eatman said.

Students learn to water, weed and harvest the crops, all while gaining hands-on experience in food production. The lessons are also a part of the students’ regular physical education classes with coach Diana Bickelhaupt.

The gardens have a variety of plants including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchinis, cucumbers and squash. After harvesting, the students have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor, tasting the fresh vegetables they have grown. Students also have the option to take their bounty home.

Community Support and Involvement

A group of community partners that help with the raised bed gardens at Cordova Elementary School.Local groups and grants from organizations support this project. These include Alabama Ag in the Classroom, the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Cawaco RC&D. Cawaco is a group that funds natural resource stewardship programs in central Alabama. Seeds are also donated by Cawaco, the Natural Resource Conservation Services, Bonnie Plants and other contributors.

Local community members and officials also play important roles. Rebecca Persons, an Alabama 4-H youth development coordinator in Walker County, helps teach gardening lessons. Danny Cain, the Walker County Extension coordinator, secured a grant to cover the cost for 10 people to take part in the Alabama Extension Master Gardener program. These Master Gardener volunteers spend their required service hours working in the school gardens. Additionally, the mayor of Cordova received donations for pollinator plants and the gravel around the beds.

Thriving Gardens

This gardening project not only enriches the students’ education but also sows the seeds for a healthier, more sustainable future. Dianne Williams, principal of Cordova Elementary School, is pleased with how well the gardening project is going and how much support it receives from the community.

“I always welcome the opportunity to enhance the hands-on learning and educational experiences of our students,” Williams said. “The kids absolutely love the experience, and it is teaching them about proper food sources and the importance of sustainability.”

More Information

To learn more about nutrition and physical activity, visit www.LiveWellAlabama.com. There, you can find valuable resources, practical advice and insights to support your wellness journey.

For those looking to connect with others interested in a healthy lifestyle, consider following Live Well Alabama on social media. Their FacebookTwitter and Instagram platforms offer a space to share experiences, find inspiration and join a community focused on well-being.