I just ran across this article from two years ago and since it's such a positive and innovative idea, I wanted to share it. Imagine what a good learning and esteem building experience this could be for young people.
It's a shame about the reason they state for not using the produce for school lunches, though.
March 26, 2010, 5:10 PM
High School Gardening â€” for Credit <address style="font-style: normal; font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 1.1em; color: #808080; text-align: left;" class="byline author vcard">ByÂ JARED FLESHER</address>
Starting this week atÂ Princeton Public High School, students can take gym class in the garden.
â€œI think itâ€™s strangely enjoyable,â€ said Tim Vasseur, a Princeton sophomore, shovel in hand. â€œItâ€™s definitely not easy to do or anything like that.â€
Advocates for greener schools believe this is the first time public school students will receive physical education credit for garden work. The idea was conceived by Matt Wilkinson, a physical education teacher and a former wrestling coach who also has a background in horticulture.
â€œWeâ€™re giving students another option to mainstream physical education,â€ Mr. Wilkinson said. â€œHow long is somebody going to play basketball or soccer? Gardening they can do their whole lives.â€
Last fall, members of the community raised $1,500 and constructedÂ 16 raised garden beds on school property. Now that itâ€™s spring, students will get to work planting seeds, weeding, and turning compost.
â€œIt gives people who arenâ€™t that athletic â€” and I feel like Iâ€™m not â€” it gives them an opportunity to do something else,â€ said Kruthi Isola, a sophomore. â€œYou learn how to do more than just play a game.â€
As part of the class, students will create weight lifting programs customized to build gardening muscle. For example, Mr. Wilkinson emphasized how the dayâ€™s activity â€” using shovels to turn over soil in preparation for planting â€” uses the same muscles employed in bicep curls.
But the teenagers are not required to get their hands dirty. Each member of the class can choose between working in the garden or a more traditional activity. On the first day the garden was open, 17 of 27 students in one class picked gardening; the rest played Frisbee.
â€œSome of my friends, theyâ€™re like dude, come on, letâ€™s go play some basketball,â€ said Alex Henry, also a Princeton sophomore. â€œWhy are you doing this girl stuff? But I was like, you know, letâ€™s break the orthodoxy a little bit.â€
When the gardening gym classÂ first received publicity in a local newspaper, most of the comments left on the Internet were positive, but not all.
One commenter wrote: â€œThis leads to the further softening of the next generation of kids.â€
â€œAthletics isnâ€™t supposed to be easy,â€ the commenter added, â€œbut it provides a balance in education that the â€˜gardening lifestyleâ€™ doesnâ€™t.â€
Mr. Henry, who played football this season, sees it differently.
â€œLooking at articles Iâ€™ve seen, you donâ€™t really know whatâ€™s in your food,â€ he said. â€œIt kind of inspires you to say, â€˜O.K., let me start a garden, so I know exactly what Iâ€™m eating.â€™ My nutritional level goes up, and I live longer, and Iâ€™m healthier.â€
Princeton High School will use the garden for academic purposes as well. Each department has adopted a bed and will choose the types of seeds to be planted. The science department wants to study which plants prevent erosion the best, while the foreign languages department will grow food related to various culinary traditions. Even the guidance department is getting involved; it selected plants that will yield relaxing aromas.
As for any extra vegetables, most will be donated to local soup kitchens and other charitable organizations. They canâ€™t be used in school lunches, Mr. Wilkinson said, because of existing contracts the school has with food service companies.