The Environmental Media Association (EMA) launched its School Garden Program on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood. The EMA School Garden Program aims to enrich children’s lives by supporting and encouraging organic gardens in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Since inception, EMA has directly supported 17 LA school gardens through funding and celebrity mentoring via EMA’s Young Hollywood Board and Parent Board.
The School Garden Program allows children across the country to benefit from shared urban school garden experiences and inspires students to take action on behalf of nature. Students who are able to leave the confines of a classroom for an outdoor, environmental experience learn more and test higher than other students. They also make healthier food choices in their own lives and have greater self-confidence and leadership skills. Focusing on urban and lower socio-economic areas, EMA hopes to continue to grow the EMA School Garden Program and have an impact on more schools across the nation.
The Short Answer…
They’re great for children’s development.
EMA believes that students don’t just have to learn within the confines of four walls, but that education can take place in a dynamic atmosphere that engages them in a unique and creative fashion. School gardens provide the perfect opportunity to do just that by providing an interdisciplinary and student-centered experience that enriches their learning experience in a “living classroom.”
In many urban areas, children are surrounded by cement and asphalt. The natural environment is behind fences or windows and not available for hands-on exploration. As a result, there is a disconnect between the children and the environment. A recent survey by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom found that more than 60% of children surveyed thought that cotton comes from sheep and that vegetables come from the store. From reading, to science, math, and nutrition everything is possible in the hands-on laboratory of a school garden.
School gardens offer an experiential curriculum that can be tailored to a teacher’s needs and students’ abilities. Math, science, nutrition, health and fitness can all be taught through the use of these gardens and provide a fun environment in which learning becomes so much more than books and quizzes. Learning becomes an adventure.
According to the California Department of Education, over 77 percent of students in environment-based education programs, such as school gardens, scored higher than their peers across all standardized tests and had higher grade point averages. Students taking part in Garden Programs experience other benefits as well. Students are reported to have greater self-confidence, leadership and social skills, and also exhibit higher interest in volunteerism and community spirit.
It turns out that students who participate in the Program discover fresh food, make healthier food choices, and are more physically active. Children who plant and harvest their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them. The first step in developing healthier eating patterns is to increase students’ desire to taste vegetables in the first place.
Los Angeles schools participating in the EMA School Garden Program:
Young actors and actresses serve as role models to millions of people, especially youth. Through their actions, celebrities can inspire youth in their formative years, and EMA has recruited celebrities to the Program to mentor and actively engage the students in the EMA School Garden Program.
From planting and tending the gardens to speaking to students about healthy eating choices, Board members including Malin Akerman, Lance Bass, Mehcad Brooks, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rosario Dawson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Rachelle Lefevre, Dawn Olivieri, Carter Oosterhouse, Nicole Richie, Amy Smart, Darby Stanchfield, Emily VanCamp, Olivia Wilde and Constance Zimmer inspire the children and share in the joy they experience from the gardens.
EMA School Gardens would not be possible without our partners and sponsors: