As Bastian Elementary School students filed out onto the green campus lawn, two adventurous boys quickly claimed their garden bed and took turns prodding the large brown mushrooms growing along the side.
Nestled alongside each other, the first- and second-graders paid careful attention as they were taught about garden safety and tools that can be used in a garden, like trowels, shovels, wheelbarrows, watering cans, water hoses, and even gloves.
The duo was participating in a new student garden pilot program launched in October and designed to help students understand the importance of food literacy and living a healthy lifestyle.
“We’re helping students change the way they think,” Nutrition Services Food Literacy and Inclusion Director Dr. Tesha Williams said. “We’re elevating their thinking.”
Williams and her team teach at Bastian every Tuesday and Thursday from 8 to 11 a.m. They begin with a class of pre-kindergartners and kindergartners, followed by first and second graders. The third and final session combines third, fourth, and fifth graders.
Last week, the oldest group of students participated in role-playing activities involving characters that allow them to explore different types of thinkers and boost their critical thinking skills.
“To be food literate means to critically reflect on the effects of food choices on individual, family, and community health,” Williams said. “This program empowers students by making academic subjects relevant to their everyday lives.”
To ensure the program is integrated with core curriculum and fundamental school subjects, William’s team works closely with the district’s Curriculum and Development team. They also partner with several outside organizations, including the Foundation for Critical Thinking, UTHealth School of Public Health, and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center.
Williams said the goal is to expand the program to multiple feeder patterns around the district, beginning with Worthing High School — starting at Bastian, then to Attucks Middle School in November and Worthing in December.