Parker Woods Montessori students get their hands dirty, but mom would approve

Parker Woods Montessori students get their hands dirty, but mom would approve


Planting gardens improves kid’s attitudes toward fruits and vegetables

Parker Woods Montessori is building and planting an American Heart Association Teaching Garden called The Koster Montessori Learning Garden as part of the association’s healthy living platform aimed to build healthy bodies and minds. The students, spanning from pre-schoolers to sixth graders, will spend a day building and filling planter boxes, provided by the American Heart Association and Teaching Garden sponsor, Cincinnati Public Schools. The goal is to educate kids on health and wellness and get them eating healthier; and Teaching Gardens are proven to do just that.

The day will begin with an Opening Ceremony featuring the Cincinnati Public Schools volunteer committee, and leadership from both the school and association. Following the ceremony students will spend the day building and filling the planters, and also applying a wide variety of curriculum, provided by the association, as they rotate through various stations. Children will apply:

  • math and science as they construct and fill the planters with soil
  • health and nutrition when they participate in vegetable and one-bite salsa tasting with voting for both
  • English and art as they write or draw what the Teaching Garden means to them and
  • physical education as all students participate in the school’s annual Jump Rope for Heart event/station.

Throughout the summer, families from the school, the Northside community and the Parker Woods Montessori PTO’s Green & Healthy Committee will maintain and harvest the produce to be sent home with the school’s families. Excess produce will be shared with local food banks. Numerous studies have shown that participation in school garden programs can have a positive impact on student’s consumption of fruits and vegetables.


Plant Day – Monday, May 11, 2015 (9:30 – 2:30pm)

10:00-10:30am – Opening ceremonies
10:30-11:30am – Dixie cup planting (3-6 year olds)
10:30-noon – Build boxes, fill w/ soil, stations (10-12 year olds)
12-12:45pm – Lunch break
12:45-2:15 – Planting and stations (6-9 year olds)


Parker Woods Montessori
4370 Beech Hill Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45223


Childhood obesity is an epidemic putting children at great risk for heart disease and stroke, our nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. The statistics are alarming:

  • Nearly one in three American children are overweight or obese.
  • French fries are the most common source of vegetables consumed by children and make up one-fourth of their vegetable intake. Juice, which may lack important fiber found in whole fruits, accounts for 40 percent of children’s daily fruit intake.
  • Currently, less than one percent of the adult population and nearly no children ages 12-19 are in ideal heart-health, in large part due to the lack of a healthy diet.

If the childhood obesity trend is not reversed, experts predict that this generation will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents. To make progress in its mission to improve the health of all Americans and reduce cardiovascular mortalities, the American Heart Association must continue to create and manage programs that combat this epidemic. With the Teaching Gardens and partnerships with organizations such as the garden’s sponsor the organization can begin to reverse the childhood obesity trend.

For more information about the Teaching Garden program, or to find out how you can contribute to school’s gardening efforts, call 513-281-4048 or email



1. What is the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens program?

Teaching Gardens is a school garden program designed for elementary school students. The program includes a curriculum that provides integrated holistic garden-related classroom lessons and activities for teaching nutrition, math, science, and language arts.
The program provides a real-life laboratory where students learn how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest crops and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. It encompasses a core belief that when you educate children about nutritional choices and challenge them to make small changes to improve their health, they will teach their families and others.

2. Why did the American Heart Association decide to bring Teaching Gardens to schools across the country?

Teaching Gardens are designed to encourage healthy diets in young children and to help combat childhood obesity. Nearly one in three children and adolescents in the U.S. is overweight or obese.

There is significant research showing the health benefits of gardening and educational programs. Studies show garden-based nutritional intervention programs may increase fruit and vegetable intake among youth, as well as the willingness among younger children to try fruits and vegetables. In one study, adults with a household member who participated in a community garden consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day than those who did not participate. And they were 3.5 times more likely to consume fruits and vegetables at least five times daily.

3. Who founded the Teaching Gardens program?

Noted health activist Kelly Meyer founded the program in 2010 out of concern for America’s childhood obesity crisis. She now works as a volunteer in partnership with the association as we take the program nationwide.

4. What does the American Heart Association provide to the schools?

We typically provide 6-8 raised plant beds. Under some circumstances, a custom layout with a maximum of 10 beds will be created by the vendor. We also provide a printed curriculum, 10 raised bed planters, seeds, soil, hose, water nozzle, shovels, rakes, buckets, hand trowels, hand cultivators, gardening gloves, and a pruner.

5. Is there a uniform way schools must set up the program?

No. Each school is unique, so each program will be, too. Some schools may decide to let each grade “own” part of the garden, while other schools may choose to only involve certain grades or classrooms. While the hope is for every student to engage in the program, some schools may have to make decisions based on what works best for them. Schools may assign a certain number of boxes by grade or class, or delegate specific roles and responsibilities. For example, first grade might be in charge of watering, third grade does the weeding, etc. This flexibility allows schools to make their gardens truly their own.

6. How can an entire grade work on the gardens at the same time? Is it truly hands-on learning for all kids?

Schools have room to set things up flexibly to teach all kids. Because not all activities take place physically inside the garden, and because the garden can be shared over certain periods of time, all kids could be involved if that’s the best approach for a school.

7. Who takes care of the gardens during the summer when school is out?

Each school designates a School Garden Committee and School Garden Champion who are responsible making a summer watering and maintenance schedule and delegating tasks. Schools also can empty their planters of everything except soil before summer break and re-plant in the fall.

8. How long does a school participate in the program?

Schools must sign on for at least t two years. Before the second year is up, each school must attend a renewal/evaluation meeting to confirm the next year’s participation. The beds and gardening equipment should last for at least five years.

9. How do we ensure gardens thrive for at least two years? How are they funded after that?

Schools in the program must commit to making the garden an integrated part of daily school life and:

  • Maintain a thriving garden for a minimum of two years,
  • Integrate cross-curricular lesson plans and the garden into class activities on a regular basis so the garden becomes a part of the school day. They also must integrate lesson plans that reinforce nutrition education
  • Designate a member of the school’s faculty or administration to serve as the school’s Garden Champion. This person is the primary point of contact with the American Heart Association liaison.
  • Host plant day, harvest day and replant celebrations to create awareness of and accountability for the garden
  • Establish a Teaching Garden Committee with representatives from the school staff, student body and community members.

After the first year of the program, costs to maintain a garden beyond are very limited. The costs may include seeds and seedlings or equipment repair and replacement. Ideas for fundraising or seeking local in-kind donations to support the garden are included in the School Garden Manual.

What quality control measures are in place?

Schools agree in the Letter of Commitment to participate in evaluation activities, including sharing feedback, photos and videos.

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