May 17, 2012
Students at Irma C. Ruiz Elementary School today helped plant and water their new outdoor Learning Garden designed to encourage and teach students to develop healthier life habits. The Learning Garden pilot program is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s drive to promote a healthier Chicago and will encourage students to make smart and balanced food choices. A $600,000 grant was directed to fund the program on behalf of The Kitchen Community (TKC), a Denver-based nonprofit organization focused on creating community through food.
Six Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are receiving Learning Gardens in May and June. In addition to Ruiz Elementary, the other schools are Benito Juarez Community Academy High School, Jonathan Burr Elementary School, Mildred I. Lavizzo Elementary School, Carter G. Woodson South Elementary School and Sir Miles Davis Magnet Elementary Academy.
“Healthy kids mean healthy classrooms and I am thrilled for these schools to be part of the Learning Gardens pilot program,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “School gardens are fun educational tools that provide students with a dynamic way to learn about fresh food choices and the responsibility of working together to enrich our environment.”
The Learning Garden pilot program is also a reflection of Mayor Emanuel’s healthy lifestyle initiative, which includes the creation of five new farmers markets in neighborhoods with limited grocery options, and the wellness initiative created to improve the quality of life for employees of the City of Chicago and their families.
The students and staff at each pilot school will help their Learning Garden thrive while supporting and practicing healthy food education. Each Learning Garden includes fruit trees, shrubs and raised vegetable beds that inspire hands-on lessons to foster improved student health while offering the benefit of enjoying outdoor activity. Learning Gardens at each CPS school also will include hand-painted signs by students to enhance their ownership of the garden.
Learning Gardens are designed to inspire spontaneous play by children and also create an attractive outdoor classroom for teachers. Prior to garden installations, teachers at the six pilot schools became certified through the Green Teacher Network - a collaboration between three of Chicago’s prominent greening organizations - Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, Chicago Botanic Garden and Openlands. Through teacher trainings and events, the Green Teacher Network fosters the use of plant-based learning in Chicago area schools and supports teachers’ efforts to create and use school gardens or growing spaces as educational tools. Teachers at each pilot school will be given an integrated curriculum that includes lesson plans to make it easy to teach their classes in the garden.
TKC is a non-profit organization with the mission to connect kids to real food by creating Learning Gardens in schools across the country. In collaboration with Openlands, an Illinois conservation organization, TKC provides garden program support, which includes teacher training, lesson plans and workshops.
Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.