Do classroom gardeners spark healthier diets?
The University of Alberta has partnered with an Aboriginal community to teach schoolchildren about the joys of growing and eating their own vegetables.
As part of a nutrition study led by researchers in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, 25 Earth boxes were installed in late 2010 in elementary classrooms at Kipohtakaw Education Centre on the Alexander First Nation, northwest of Edmonton. The plants-in-a-box are part of a two-year study to see if small classroom gardens can coax kids to acquire a taste for, and subsequently eat more, vegetables and fruit. The project, which is also supported by Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, is for the first time including a First Nations school in its scope, at the request of the community itself.
“The children will come close to understanding where their food comes from, and they’ll learn at a young age about making healthy choices,” said David Dyck Fehderau, project co-ordinator of First Nations Child Health at the U of A. “We hope they’ll learn about plants, gardening and nutrition by working with the Earth boxes in class, by talking with elders about traditional gardening and plants, and by talking with teachers about nutrition.”