Keeping Kids in Touch with Nature
Want to see first-hand just how much of a difference one person can make? Plan a trip to Granny’s Garden School in Loveland!
Seeing how disconnected kids are becoming from the natural world and their
communities, Roberta Paolo (aka “Granny”) decided to do something
about it. As a grandmother and gardener, she had seen the positive impact
exposure to flowers had on the kids and adults who visited her gardens;
even the neighborhood tough guys. In the spring of 2002, she started Granny’s
Garden School to give kids a chance to pick flowers and ended up changing
the school system. Granny uses school the grounds to turn kids on to growing
and eating vegetables and inspires them to “stop and smell the roses” and
pick one to share!
She began by mobilizing volunteers to develop the school grounds into teaching gardens, then taught the teachers how to use them. Today, teachers use the 100 vegetable garden beds and ¾ mile nature trail to
teach a variety of academic and life lessons to the 1,700 first through fourth graders in Loveland, Ohio. Produce is used for the kids to snack on while still in the gardens, served in the cafeteria and donated to the local food pantry. And, there are lots of flowers to pick!
Granny believes in getting the most out of every resource, be it money, people or in kind donations.
- Each spring, a supermarket donates sweet potatoes that the first
graders use to grow slips to sell to local farms. Some are planted in the sweet potato patch. In the fall, when they return to school as second graders, the students dig the sweet potatoes and prepare and eat them as part of their harvest party.
- For a donation of $50 people become members in Granny’s Garden
Club which entitles them to pick 10 bouquets and to receive discounts on plant sales.
- The students gather and package seeds that are donated to other schools and sold at a Spring Garden Party, along with surplus perennials dug from the gardens.
- This spring, Granny’s Garden School will offer chefs the opportunity to harvest herbs and fresh produce throughout the summer.
- During the summer Granny offers outdoor gardening, cooking
and how-to craft camps where kids can learn useful life skills, like how to cook and use a drill.
The program is a study in creative ways to use resources and attract
and utilize volunteers. Realizing that the parent pool was not going to provide enough volunteers, Granny launched Community
Service Weekend (April and October) and then publicized it at high schools and colleges that require students to do community service. She used the same approach to attract business and church groups who help to maintain the gardens in the summer.
Granny’s Garden School is a shining example of how one person with a great idea and a lot of determination can influence many lives and engage an entire community. If you would like to tour Granny’s Garden School, contact Roberta Paolo via their website, www.grannysgardenschool.com.