Book to garden to food

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Teacher Jaret Guidry, right, goes over the story 'Tumbleweed Stew' by Susan Stevens Crummel about the ingredients needed for the soup as third-grader Tristan Bennett, 9, top left, writes the items on the board as they are called out.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Teacher Jaret Guidry, right, goes over the story 'Tumbleweed Stew' by Susan Stevens Crummel about the ingredients needed for the soup as third-grader Tristan Bennett, 9, top left, writes the items on the board as they are called out.

Heart group, school work to teach healthy eating

On Nov. 29, Cedarcrest-Southmoor Elementary School teacher Jaret Guidry read the children’s book “Tumbleweed Stew” to students. A few hours later, they ate some.

No, the ingredients weren’t straight out of the book. But the students grew some of what went into the pot, which turned the day into a celebration. The first of many, it is hoped.

The school planted its American Heart Association Teaching Garden in September with several goals. The AHA wanted to get children interested in heart-healthy eating. Teachers wanted to use it to give a practical edge to instruction — in some cases, very basic instruction.

“So many of these kids, they don’t even know where food comes from,” said Carol Babb, a gifted resource teacher for fourth- and fifth-grades. “I don’t know about you, but my grandparents and my parents all had gardens, and that’s probably why I love and have my own garden.

“But we have generations of kids that have never grown a vegetable, that live in apartments or their family is not interested in even growing a tomato plant in a pot. They have no background for it. For some kids, this is eye-opening … especially the little ones, that food does not just come out of a box. It comes from the ground.”

In this case, it comes from ground that has been added to 10 raised beds, materials for which were provided by the AHA and sponsored by the Baton Rouge Credit Union Foundation. Bonnie Plants donated the seeds. Babb, Guidry and coach Randy Maum coordinated the school’s effort, which involves kindergarten through fifth-grade classes.

“This summer, we were called up to the office, and they said the American Heart Association wants to grant you with a garden, and I was excited because I’d thought for years about writing a grant for a garden, but I didn’t have enough time,” Babb said. “They gave us all the stuff to start our garden.”

The students weren’t the only ones doing the learning.

“They’ve been teaching me,” said Guidry, referring to students whose families have vegetable gardens. “I knew nothing about gardening when we started this. I learned how to garden because of this.”

The fall garden was started in mid-September with beets, radishes, lettuce, zucchini, yellow squash, cabbages, greens, basil, cilantro, citronella, broccoli and cauliflower. Some plants are doing better than others.

Half of the students in each grade participate in the fall garden, and the other half will be involved in the spring garden. The size of the raised beds doesn’t allow for large crops, so the students will only get a few bites of what they grow.

That doesn’t dampen their enthusiasm, as was demonstrated when Guidry told them what they’d be doing on harvest day.

“We’re going to be harvesting onions from the garden,” she said.

“Yay!” students yelled, thrusting their hands in the air.

They also harvested radishes, parsley and cilantro to season the “tumbleweed stew” and salad that was served later in the day.

Teachers and administrators from Jefferson Terrace Elementary School came by to watch the harvest because their school has received an American Heart Association Teaching Garden grant that will begin next semester.

“It’s real-to-life teaching, because if we were raised on a farm, we understood the ground and where things come from,” said Debra Adebutu, Jefferson Terrace principal. “Some of our kids now, if you ask them where a zucchini comes from, they don’t even know what a zucchini is. ”