Spring Hill Elementary in Fayette County is an example of staff members and teachers embracing farm to school practices for an enriched educational experience and better health and wellness for their students.
When planning for a garden at Spring Hill in the fall of 2016, staff members wanted a garden that could be utilized by all students and teachers to support the need for flexible and experiential learning for students through nutrition education and culinary lessons. Since developing the school garden at Spring Hill, it has flourished and touched the lives of many students, staff members and the community.
Jeff Eller, a teacher at Spring Hill Elementary, has been the guiding force behind much of the garden’s vision, activities and growth. Eller has even created a website to showcase the garden and provide information to the community for volunteer days and projects. The introduction on their website, Spring Hill Grows Up, highlights the impact that the garden has not only on their school, but the community as a whole:
“We are here for families. To serve the whole family we must grow together. Gardening is a medium where we can do life together. The family is the foundation, and garden pursuits can lead to sustained inroads for many levels of growth and learning. Creativity, vigor, commitment, trust and relationships will hold us together as a community and as a school. This makes the outcome a win-win.”
The School Nutrition Program partners with teachers to support their efforts in academic achievement through gardening activities. Michelle Cleghorn, cafeteria manager at Spring Hill, assists by cooking the products grown in the garden by students and conducing taste tests. Additionally, the district school nutrition program partners with their produce company to bring locally sourced products to the entire district.
Older students and the larger community have become more involved in events at Spring Hill because of the garden. Boy Scouts have taken the lead on many garden expansions while completing a number of Eagle Scout projects, including an expanded rain barrel system, a hydroponic growing system and additional raised bed gardens.
In addition to the school garden, Spring Hill implemented a schoolwide Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) initiative in the fall of 2017 and focused on the Junior Master Gardener curriculum. The Junior Master Gardener curriculum, led by the University of Georgia Extension service, aims to engage children in hands-on group and individual learning experiences in a garden. Beginning this school year, Spring Hill will have a dedicated STEAM class where initiatives will run in parallel with garden-focused community and school initiatives.
In the future, Eller hopes to install loop houses and create an initiative to combine agroforestry and environmental education. Eller hopes that one day—when production increases—local restaurants will buy fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from the school garden. He envisions the garden’s expansion will positively affect the entire community. With ongoing conversations among other teachers and farm to school professionals across the state and nation, there are many more possibilities for Spring Hill Elementary.
To learn more about Spring Hill Elementary visit their website
To learn more about the Spring Hill Elementary STEAM initiative click here