gene

Gene George Elementary is so excited to be involved in the Arkansas GardenCorps program! Our students and families have been working on the garden and are ready to plant vegetables and fruits. This summer, we have organized a group of our parents who will come daily to work in the garden with their children. Students will learn about healthy eating habits through GardenCorps activities and through coordination with our school nurse, physical education teacher, and the cafeteria staff. We are looking forward to a great new year!!

Annette Freeman, Principal

Gene George Elementary is a public school in Springdale Arkansas.  We have 640 students currently enrolled, kindergarten through fifth grade.  Our school has an 87% poverty rate (free/reduced lunch rate) and 67% of our students are English Language Learners. George Elementary serves around 300 students that reside at Brookhaven Apartments which is directly across the street from the school.  The apartments have no resources for growing plants or vegetables.  We also serve a trailer park within walking distance of the school that offers no resources for a garden as well. Although  90% of our students and parents live within walking distance to the school, the nearest store that has fresh produce in not within walking distance. Therefore if a community garden were planted at George Elementary, families would have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables that they have helped to grow year round.  Our school has a Family Literacy Program  with an average attendance of 14 parents who come to school a minimum of 4 hours a day for 4 days a week. The families in this class are learning English as a second language and will volunteer to help maintain the garden, and will learn how to prepare the healthy foods that come out of the garden.  The Family literacy parents will be participating in a Cooking Matters program with our counselor.  They will learn to prepare and cook healthy meals. The foods from the garden could be incorporated into their lessons. We have an overall obesity rate of 40% for males and 37% for females at George Elementary. Approximately 50% of our kindergarten classes, which consist of 120 students, are overweight or obese.  We are in need of a garden so that our parents and students can learn how to grow and eat healthy foods.  A garden will give the school endless opportunities to educate our school community in attempt to decrease our high obesity rate.  Parents will learn how to grow healthy foods and prepare them and in turn the children will have a healthier lifestyle now and in the future.

George Elementary has an abundance of level land that could be used for a garden.  A one acre garden is needed to serve all of the George School Community including; staff, parents, and students.  The University of Arkansas, Northwest Technical Institute, school employees, students, and parent volunteers will all be beneficial partners in this organization.

 

At the beginning of my service, I contacted George Junior High (we share a campus) to see if any of the students would be interested in volunteering during Garden Club to help me manage the large number of elementary students in the clubs. It wasn't until October that I received a response from one of the teachers at the school. Almost overnight, I had between 5-10 students from the Junior High FFCLA club coming every day after school to help with Garden Club and with garden management. I am not proud to admit that I was worried that these students might be apathetic or make the workings of the club more difficult. I have been so surprised with how awesome they are! They have been a wonderful addition and make the latter half of garden club easier to manage. Every garden club, the elementary students look forward to when their Junior High friends will arrive. It has a great impact on everyone's excitement about the garden. On top of this, the Junior High students have been taking on the great manual labor task of helping build up the school garden. The enthusiasm of these students has been an inspiration to me and a testament to their willingness to help the community.

-Katie Sozansky-Gene George Elementary

Katie Sozansky

Katie Sozansky is the GardenCorps service member at George Elementary School in Springdale, Arkansas. During her service, George Elementary plans to develop its outdoor learning lab into an edible school garden and create a school-based community garden for the families of George Elementary students to increase food security and accessibility for students. With Garden Club and Cooking Matters for Kids offered as after school programs this fall and winter, there will be plenty of garden-based fun to be had by all! Katie studied Horticulture at the University of Arkansas and has worked as a Garden Club leader for Apple Seeds, Inc. in two Fayetteville elementary schools. She loves to cook - she makes a mean butternut squash risotto!

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