Captain Planet Foundation's (www.captainplanetfoundation.org) innovative Project Learning GardenTM provides schools with strategies for building effective and sustainable garden-based learning programs. By the end of 2014, the program will have 110 Project Learning Garden schools in its hometown of Atlanta (Atlanta Public Schools and Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett Public School Systems) and 10 schools in a pilot program in Ventura County, Calif.
The goal of Project Learning Garden is to integrate school gardens with core subject lessons, connect gardens to school cafeterias, help students develop an affinity for nature and an early palate for fruits and vegetables, and increase teacher capacity for providing project-based learning for students.
Kyla Van Deusen, CPF's Project Learning Gardens program manager, says, "One key element often overlooked in getting kids to eat better is the importance of how they eat at school. Kids learn how to enjoy fruits, vegetables and salads as a part of lunch, and this program has a direct impact on developing their palates from an early age. That palate development can also have an impact on how their parents eat, home meal preparation, and on childhood obesity. Parents often report that their children ask them to buy new vegetables at the grocery store after growing and cooking the veggies themselves as part of a school garden program. One five-year-old said she preferred eating raw Brussels sprouts in the garden to her sour gummy worm treat!"
During the 2014 back to school timeframe, two new partnership with FoodCorps and Conyers-based Pratt Industries are helping Project Learning Garden expand across Georgia and across the nation.
Beginning in September, FoodCorps, a national farm to school organization that connects children in underserved communities to real food, expanded into Georgia, with Georgia Organics serving as its official state host organization. (FoodCorps is part of the AmeriCorps Service Network and added Georgia and Washington, D.C. to its 15-state program after a competitive 2014 bidding process.) Eight FoodCorps service members will dedicate one year of full-time public service by working with three Georgia-based service site organizations: Captain Planet Foundation, Athens Land Trust, and Northeast Georgia Farm to School Program. Service members will expand hands-on nutrition education programs, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local foods into school cafeterias.
Beginning in September, a partnership with Pratt Industries will allow any U.S. elementary school with an existing garden to download free Project Learning Garden standards-based lessons and order the classroom lesson supply kits at cost (about $500 for three lessons per grade K-5). Schools can also order the Project Learning Garden mobile cooking cart at cost (also about $500, shipping included). Pratt, America's fifth-largest corrugated packaging company, is donating the management of the e-commerce site as well as ordering, housing assembling, and shipping the lesson kits to schools.
CPF funds environmental education and stewardship programs for K-12 kids around the U.S. and the world. It was co-founded by media mogul Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle in 1991 and is now chaired by Ted’s daughter, Laura Turner Seydel. CPF's Project Learning Garden program helps teachers substitute an engaging hands-on lesson in the garden for a textbook-driven lesson in the classroom - while teaching the same required curriculum standard in math, science, social studies, health or language arts.
CPF's Project Learning Garden funders and partners include Pratt Industries, Dole Foods, Kendeda Fund, Kaiser Permanente, James M. Cox Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Institute for America's Health, Keep America Beautiful, Vitamix Foundation, Publix Supermarkets, Wells Fargo, SCANA Energy and the Atlanta Community Food Bank.