Sarah Smith Elementary International Baccalaureate School in Buckhead and has many facets that categorize it as a “green” school. Natural light filters through the many large windows and equipment on the roof “super filters” the air before it enters the school, cooling or heating en route. Every afternoon, students from the “green team” roam the hallways with big green recycle bins. Their job is to collect the recyclable materials from the classrooms and make sure they are distributed to the appropriate recycle bins the school provides.
During the last school year, Smith Elementary was a grateful grant recipient of Captain Planet’s Learning Garden Program. The energy in the school was palpable as the students and teachers awaited the installation of organic gardens at both campuses. Diane Jarrell, a parent volunteer, championed the garden project for several years. She was finally able to see it to fruition with the support of Principal Dr. Ken Proctor and a team of parents and teachers. Jarrell’s oldest daughter is a type 1 diabetic and she is passionate about feeding her family organic, healthy meals from the garden. Jarrell believes that when kids share a part in creating something, they are more likely to use it.
“If kids can actually make food grow, they are more likely to eat it and everything that grows in the ground is healthy,” Jarrell says. She has firsthand experience with eating from the garden and shares that at age 2, her daughter was “ripping carrots, scallions and beets from the ground and eating them.”
Jarrell believes there is a health crisis going on in children with less activity and more junk food. She was inspired to research and explore the best opportunity to bring a garden to her children’s school.
“Learning how to grow healthy food and making it fun and learning it in school, along with academics, gives kids perspective that being healthy is an important part of education. When a similar message is reiterated at home and at school, it seems to stick a little more,” she says.
Captain Planet provides all materials to install the gardens and supplies a fully equipped garden cooking cart and summer maintenance. They offer a detailed instructional curriculum to support the program. The educational opportunities are endless and incorporate lessons ranging from math and writing to nutrition and the sciences with first hand field investigation. The organization sees the program as “an extension of the classroom” rather than an “extracurricular activity.” Parent and Chef Chris Blobaum will share his passion for organic, farm-to-table cuisine and provide hands-on instructional training to support the curriculum.
Students will cultivate skills through experiential learning, group activities and discovery by digging in the dirt and getting back to nature and the environment. Chef Blobaum hopes to expand their palates by introducing them to nutritious and healthful foods. Physical Education Coach Debbie DuBois’ enthusiasm is contagious. She has visions of composting barrels and is developing relationships with local farmers to support ongoing seasonal planting.