Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Introducing Cloverdale Aerospace Technology Conversion Charter Middle School...

Monday through Thursday, I wake up in the morning, get dressed, and head to Cloverdale Aerospace Technology Conversion Charter Middle School. Most days one of my students will run out to meet me in the garden to help me feed hens, water starts, and share his or her garden know-how. After the bell rings my student helper goes to class, and I get started on my own list of what needs to be done in the garden. My first class doesn’t start until 10:41am, so I have at least two hours each morning to get things done. Usually this means I water, weed, seed, and till. On recipe days I spend some time cooking. The solitude, the peace, and the sweat I break doing these garden tasks gets my day started off right.

Ryan and Jade repair a trellis. 
I serve side by side with Ryan, a garden program specialist that works for the Delta Garden Study.*  I accompany Ryan to the first class of the day so I can observe the flow of the day’s lesson and offer a hand with questions and concerns from students. When the class comes out to the garden, we divide them into smaller, more manageable groups and I lead mine in any number of garden tasks. In the space between classes, I realize how short twenty minutes really is when as I try to prepare a new batch of food or set up a new garden activity before the next class arrives.  We teach all day Monday through Thursday, and it seems like we are always moving!
On Fridays my partner and I get things done that we couldn’t do with limited time during the week. We don’t have classes on this day (yet!) so we get those things done that require just two people and quite a bit of attention to detail. Fridays also mean  monthly staff meetings in downtown Little Rock, Most weekends I go to my garden to do more work, or at the least check up on the hens and water new transplants or starts.

Red Russian Kale transplants in the foreground, lettuce in the background. 
I have been serving in Little Rock, Arkansas for twelve weeks, and I tell everyone- from friends and family to the people who strike up conversation in hallways and social functions- that I love what I do. Each day I am surrounded by curious students who make me laugh, the sun is always on my face and skin, my problem solving is constantly put to the test, my body is constantly in motion, and I really feel like I am making an impact in the lives of others.

*The Delta Garden Study is a $2 million research study funded by the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service, designed to prevent childhood obesity and social risk behaviors, and improve academic achievement, in middle school children in the Delta and Central regions of Arkansas. Led by Dr. Judy Weber, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at UAMS, the study’s primary outcome variables are increased fruit and vegetable intake and increased minutes of physical activity. Secondary variable include reduction in body mass index (BMI) and body fat, reductions in social risk behaviors, and increased school bonding, improved student grade point averages and benchmark testing scores. 

You can learn more about the Delta Garden Study at

By Jade Salzman

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