Georgia Shape School Nutrition and Physical Activity grantee, Goodyear Elementary School in Glynn County, has made amazing strides over the past two years to help their students become healthier. Goodyear received a nutrition grant in the 2016-17 school year and a nutrition and physical activity grant this school year. With their grant funds, Goodyear established a school garden to introduce students to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts through gardening and farm-to-table activities. They also conducted various taste tests, expanded water access for students and staff members and implemented new physical activity initiatives.
Goodyear staff members and students installed three mini-greenhouses, built six garden beds and planted 50 vegetable plants (tomatoes, potato, radish, lettuce and lima beans). There were some challenges with water access, but the school harvested five pounds of vegetables between February and May 2017.
Teachers and staff members enjoy the garden under the leadership of Ms. Eugenia Taylor, an Early Intervention Program teacher at Goodyear. Ms. Taylor attended the Georgia Organics Farm to School Conference in October 2017.
“I began incorporating the garden into my morning duty by bringing samples of the herbs for the children to touch and smell,” said Taylor. “I would say that most of the kids that walk past me can identify lemon balm, rosemary, oregano and lavender. We also have a vocabulary word wall with everything they learn about, which often includes garden and farm to table concepts. There is even a kindergarten student that asks me each day, ‘Is it edible?’ This part of my day is priceless.”
Former Goodyear nurse, Mollie Harms, reported that during the first year of the grant she noticed behavior benefits in students who had access to the school garden.
“Many times student misbehavior would subside when they went out to the garden, poked around in the dirt, or smelled herbs trying to distinguish the scent.”
During this fall, Goodyear harvested five pounds of sweet potatoes from their garden. A schoolwide taste test using the sweet potatoes was planned with the help of the district school nutrition director. The feedback from students was so positive that sweet potato fries were added to the elementary lunch menu for the entire Glynn County School District.
First and second graders said: “The sweet potato fries were orange and good,” and “at first the sweet potato fries were yucky, but the second bite was good!”
Since the taste test, activities expanded with the help of the cafeteria and garden directors. Students tried a kale salad and pico de gallo, all made from fresh Goodyear garden ingredients.
The hope is that as items are grown and harvested, they will be served on the lunch menu. Having the opportunity to conduct taste tests allowed students to broaden their exposure to various fruits and vegetables. Ninety-three percent of Goodyear students qualify for free-reduced lunch, and many students have limited access to a high-quality fruits and vegetables.
Goodyear is also ensuring their students and staff members have ready access to water throughout the day.
Over a four-month period, Tiffany Lankford, school nurse at Goodyear, noted over 400 student complaints of headache or stomach ache she believed were caused by chronic dehydration. The school’s health and wellness committee used Georgia Shape grant funds to develop a hydration campaign and to buy each student a reusable water bottle. Students fill their bottles with water throughout the school day, and they keep the bottles at their desks to increase water intake. They also purchased a water cooler for teachers and school staff members to promote hydration among school employees.
Goodyear also kicked off their physical activity initiative by enhancing the walking track that surrounds their campus. Exercise stations were placed around the path with signage to promote safe use of the path. FitnessGram assessment measures were taken in the fall, before the track and signage were installed and will be reassessed after use of the track to see how this environmental improvement helps students improve their fitness levels. Goodyear staff members are working to promote use of the track to not only students, but teachers, family and the whole community.
To learn more about Goodyear Elementary, visit http://www.glynn.k12.ga.us/Goodyear.cfm