School Garden Teaches Students a Healthy, Lifelong Skill
Horizon Middle School
At Horizon Middle School in Kissimmee, Florida, where nearly 80% of students qualify for free and reduced meals, administrators and staff recognized the importance of incorporating healthy eating and nutrition education into the school day. They also had a goal that was a bit more challenging: to ensure that students had the opportunity to learn gardening – a sustainable, lifelong skill that could provide them with healthy, low-cost produce.
The school had a difficult time finding funding to start a garden, but thanks to a $1,000 Action for Healthy Kids Game On grant for the 2017-2018 school year, generously funded by Aldi, their dream finally became reality. Horizon also formed partnerships with United Healthcare, the School District of Osceola County, UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County (a partnership between the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the USDA, and Osceola County government), and local farmers in order to help them build and sustain the garden.
The school’s grant leaders used the majority of the Game On funds to purchase several hydroponic towers that they installed in a greenhouse on school grounds, and students worked with staff members to plant more than 200 different edible plants. The greenhouse kickoff event was a success, with students giving visitors tours of garden, showing them the various plants, and explaining how the hydroponic towers work.
“It was an amazing day, giving my students practice on their leadership skills and letting the community know what our school is about,” said Joseph Haber, 8th grade civics teacher. “Getting students involved in all aspects of the greenhouse really gives them pride in what they are accomplishing.”
Working with the school nutritionist, Horizon’s grant leaders are now planning to introduce seasonal vegetable growing schedules and use school-grown food in their cafeteria by the 2018-2019 school year.
While there’s a lot Haber still wants to do, he’s overwhelmed by what the school has already been able to accomplish.
“We have not only created a thriving and fun hydroponic garden, but due to this grant, we now have relationships with multiple community partners,” he said. “It’s been amazing to see what the community can do when we come together to benefit our students.”