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Written by Gayle Turner
Last October I had the unique opportunity to travel to Anaheim and join the Disney VoluntEARS and representatives from the American Heart Association as they all came together with the Walt Disney Elementary School teachers, students and parents to create a most magical event- the first Teaching Garden in Anaheim.
The Teaching Garden program is part of a larger American Heart Association “My Heart. My Life” healthy living initiative, designed to help Americans understand what it means to be healthy, and to take action. Teaching Gardens have flourished throughout California, and are part of an effort to fight childhood obesity and encourage healthier schools, families and communities in Orange County. These hands-on learning opportunities were developed using the American Heart Association science and nutrition guidelines, as well as information shared by gardening and education experts. More than just a garden, it is a learning laboratory where students plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce, and in the process learn the value of good eating habits.
By giving the students, families and the community the opportunity to be a part of the planning and be an integral part in bringing the garden to fruition, every person there felt as though they had ownership in the project. Last October, in just a few hours, an incredible new space was created where parents have continued to work alongside teachers and students to sustain their Teaching Garden.
Now, less than six months later, more than 700 students of Walt Disney Elementary school saw the fruits of their labors come to life as the school and community once again joined together in the garden’s first Heart Healthy Harvest Day.
Since the initial planting, the garden, funded by the Disneyland Resort, has continued to serve as a learning laboratory where students nurture growing plants, harvest produce and, in the process, learn the value of healthy eating. Along with harvesting garden boxes during the event, students tasted new fruits and vegetables and learned about a unique form of composting that uses worms to recycle organic materials into soil. Each class also planted new vegetables for harvesting later this spring.
“The Walt Disney Elementary Teaching Garden is a unique and natural learning environment that has given our students a first-hand experience of the seed-to-table process, while providing them with invaluable insight into the importance and appreciation of nutritious and healthy eating,” said Principal Teali Fielder.
For more information about the Teaching Gardens program and how bring it to your own school community, contact or for more information about the Teaching Gardens program and how to join visit www.heart.org/teachinggardens.
Congratulations to all that came together to show the students, families, staff and community of Walt Disney Elementary School and of course Disney VoluntEARS joined representatives from the American Heart Association for once again making dreams come true. We can’t wait to see how your dreams and gardens grow.
Gayle is a lifelong educator by day and avid freelance writer by night Mom to 5, Grammy to 4 she is blessed to share her life with amazing family and friends who encourage her to chase her dreams no matter where they may lead. When not in the classroom, she can be found following her son as he dances his way through life, or working with young performers in free nationally recognized after school children’s theater program that she founded 13 years ago.