Head Start Recess: Time to Go Outside and Eat

The other day I was feeling a little down. After I had checked my 20th lesson plan when I went out to visit my Head Start sites hoping to get to interact with some students and teachers. I purposefully try to schedule the Southside Child Development Center for Friday visits because I am reminded why I love pre-k when I go there. The site is a non-profit child care partner of our Public Head Start program. They have an excellent staff and dynamic director. This particular Friday I showed up while the 3 year-old class was outside. Since recess is one of the things I miss most about the classroom I was stoked. I went outside to find the lead teacher in the back part of the pla ground. She and her little boys and girl were picking the last of the Kale from the garden. They had picked the last of the broccoli a few weeks before and enjoyed it as a classroom cooking project.

The students were having so much fun helping the teacher. They were discriminating color, shape, and textures of different types of leaves and picking them to give to the teacher. I am sure the teacher would talk about how healthy it is to eat. The students kept saying, “My grandma make Kale Ms. M___.”

It made my day.

Children get the same types of experiences at the William Byrd Community House that not only has an edible garden for the Head Start students there but a farmers market that takes Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards. The program, formerly known as food stamps, is trying to help families with limited income to eat healthy by making vegetables available through farmers markets and even as seeds and plants for SNAP gardens.

I was excited to read that in California the Western Growers Foundation had recently provided 100 $1000 grants for preschool edible gardens. This is the type of investment in an idea that can transform not only the preschools but the lives of children. There are so many things that can be learned from growing a garden, from care for living things to seeing and describing transformations. With the current crisis in childhood obesity it looks like schools are going to have to start making nutrition education a priority. Of course parents want to do the best for their children but parents are not able to make the time in hectic lives for such a subtle body of knowledge.

The good news is children will finally get to play with their vegetables.

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