Grant Grows Learning Garden Program

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ASHLAND - The Southern Boone Learning Garden teaches primary and elementary students about nature and healthy eating, but now middle and high school students in Ashland might soon have gardens at their schools.

The Learning Garden recently received the Missouri Foundation for Health: Community Health And Prevention grant that will fund the program through 2017. The grant is giving the program more than $470,000 spread over five years, allowing the garden to expand.

"I'm excited really to take all these outdoor education learning garden lesson plan activities and spread it to older kids because I think, a lot of times, they kind of get forgotten about," said Julie Zender, activities coordinator for the Learning Garden.

Zender said it is just as important for older students to receive lessons about gardening and healthy activities because kids, young or old, spend so much time indoors watching TV and using technology.

The Learning Garden was established in 2007 and coordinates elementary and primary students' school lesson plans with garden activities. The program also holds an afterschool gardening club for some of Southern Boone's third, fourth and fifth graders.

"I don't think many schools get to have their own garden, or gardening club, so I think we're pretty lucky," said Grace Aitkens, a fourth grader in the afterschool gardening club.

Zender said the program will start planning for the middle and high schools this summer and will likely have small gardens with raised beds at each school by the fall.

Another plan in the works is to start a walking school bus program with summer school students, in which the school designates pick-up points for parents to drop their children off, and then volunteer leaders walk the students the rest of the way to school. Zender said it is another way for them to get the students active and outside.

To learn more about the Southern Boone Learning Garden visit its Facebook page.