Students at Northside ISD's Driggers Elementary plant a teaching garden

American Heart Association: Gardens improve nutrition and learning

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SAN ANTONIO - Fifth-graders at Northside's Driggers Elementary School broke ground on new garden beds as part of an American Heart Association program that helps fund teaching gardens in schools.

The Heart Association and Aetna provided the materials for the beds, and the students built them, moved all the dirt and planted them.

"I like it because you get to get dirty," Sebastian Zuniga said.

"We usually just observe plants, but today we're actually getting to do the plants," Jack Villarreal said.

Nora Silva, the senior director for health equity for the American Heart Association, said the whole idea behind the teaching gardens is that when kids grow fruits and vegetables, they're more likely to try them.

"Telling them, 'Eat healthier,' but rather giving them the opportunity to learn hands-on what that looks like," Silva said.

Chrissy Pennock, a student who has grown tomatoes before, agreed.

"The tomatoes are smaller, but it feels good to have home-grown instead of getting them from the grocery store," she said.

"You made them. They're special for you," Michelle Navarro said.

Silva emphasized how important that is for San Antonio because of the childhood obesity rate.

The American Heart Association said french fries make up a quarter of children's vegetable intake, so there's room for improvement.

Better health could also lead to better attention-spans for kids.

"That will definitely lead to children being more alert, having the energy that it takes to get through a very busy day of learning, and so it's definitely right in line with the school's mission of keeping kids happy and alert," Silva said.

A slideshow is embedded here.

For a list of recent stories Jenna Hiller has done, click here.


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