Troy partners with schools to create children’s gardens

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lauren Cochran, a staff member in Troy University’s John W. Schmidt Center for Student Success, and TROY student Josh McIlwain get help from Cochran’s son Elliott, last Saturday as they prepared for a new school garden at Troy Elementary School. The garden is one of two school partnerships with the University’s Office of Civic Engagement that are made possible through a United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop grant. The ribbon cutting and planting day for the Troy Elementary School garden is set for March 3. A second garden, which is located on the University’s Montgomery Campus, represents a partnership with Montgomery’s Valiant Cross Academy and is scheduled to launch on March 24. (PHOTO/ Jonah Enfinger)

A new partnership between Troy University’s Office of Civic Engagement and schools in Troy and Montgomery will help improve children’s access to fresh produce, while also increasing their nutritional knowledge.

Made possible through a United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop grant, the project will include a raised-bed garden at Troy Elementary School and a milk crate garden operated on the University’s Montgomery Campus in cooperation with Valiant Cross Academy, along with weekly nutrition and wellness activities.

The grant was written by Jonathan Cellon, associate dean of First Year Studies, Dr. Sharon Everhardt, assistant professor of sociology, and Dr. Christopher Bradley, associate professor of sociology, who will share oversight of the project.

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Troy students will assist in the project, which will also prepare educators at the schools to continue to utilize the gardens as teaching tools after the initial project. The project will initially impact around 60 students in sixth and seventh grade at Valiant Cross in Montgomery and about 49 fifth graders at Troy Elementary.

“The goal of the project is to provide children with greater access to fruits and vegetables and to increase their knowledge of the importance of good nutrition,” Cellon said. “There are a lot of hands-on applications provided through gardens and they can be used to teach science, math, art and a variety of subjects.”

Troy student will assist with installation and weekly maintenance of the gardens, as well as lead weekly lessons for school children.

“I hope that this project will help some of our students learn nutritional information that they may have not known and reinforce some lessons that they can carry forward,” Cellon said.

“It provides an opportunity to interact with the kids from the respective communities, build leadership and mentoring skills and reinforce the importance of service to others.”

The ribbon cutting and planting day for the Troy Elementary gardens is set for March 3, while the launch date for the Montgomery garden is March 24.