Friday, February 8, 2013

Gardening and Coordinated School Health in Yellville, AR

Starting in January, we began to look to the future of the garden program here at Yellville-Summit. We had a meeting with different stakeholders, teachers, parents, administrators, community members, and students. This was an opportunity to discuss the possible scenarios for the garden and how we could make them a reality into the future. That discussion got me thinking about how the garden came to be, and how it will evolve into the future. On that note, I’ve asked Valerie Davenport, the Yellville-Summit Coordinated School Health Coordinator, to write about her experience bringing the Delta Garden Study to the school and her feelings on the program as both a parent and a staff member:
I do not have a formal background in the field of public health, however I do have a passion for many things health related.  I briefly considered entering the medical field when many of my co-workers (while working as a teaching assistant at U of A in Fayetteville) began taking the MCAT! My education background includes 13 years in the classroom as a science instructor as well as a couple of years as an education technician for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and a lifetime as a child of 2 devoted educators.  I was employed at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year as Coordinated School Health Coordinator for Yellville-Summit School District. Early in the school year I heard about the Delta Garden Study at a training meeting for CSH coordinators, but didn’t really think we would be considered a school in the Delta region.  When I learned that Marshall was in the program, I checked it out on the web and began the application process.  
My vision for the garden was to see students outside and learning in a hands-on setting.  My two youngest children are fortunate to be involved in the program this year.  They have both enjoyed having much of their learning taking place out in the garden. Here’s a quote from one of my daughter’s class assignments “If you haven’t worked in a garden at all then you have missed out big time.” My son enjoys the time outside of the confines of the classroom and has encouraged me to try a couple of the garden recipes at home because he loved the samples!
I am extremely excited about the future of the garden at Yellville-Summit, I would love to see the garden in use by all of our educators as a learning tool!  So many concepts from the classroom could be reinforced by experiencing them in the “field”. I also believe that working in the garden and learning in a real life setting could really be a positive turning point in the lives of many of our students.  In addition, I would love to see produce from the garden in our school cafeteria, just imagine the pride the students would feel if they have taken part in providing food for their peers!
Valerie is just one of the many excited, passionate folks we have working on keeping our garden a vital, sustainable program for our community. Without her, I certainly wouldn’t be here to share my experiences. In addition to spearheading the application process to bring the Delta Garden Study to Yellville-Summit, she tirelessly supports the garden with her grant writing expertise, volunteering her and her family’s Saturdays, and keeping up with all our local garden newspaper features. 

by Sara Fulton-Koerbling

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