Physical Education: It's More that Just 'Gym'

I once had a friend who was a physical education teacher. She was adamant about the fact that her class was not called 'gym.' "There are tests in my class, there are lessons in my class, it is so much more than just running around in a big room," was her well-earned soapbox. Working with school gardens has taught me that physical education classes also extend beyond the school gym geographically, with PE teachers utilizing outdoor spaces to introduce their students to a variety of activities that are part of a physically active, healthy lifestyle. 

One of the places that many PE teachers are beginning to incorporate into their regimen of outdoor activities is the school garden. Gardening as a recreational activity has been shown to reduce stress and boost overall mental health. Furthermore, the mild exercise involved in garden activities such as pushing a wheelbarrow or bending down to pull a weed certainly contribute to strength, flexibility, and fine motor skills. More importantly, gardening is a form of exercise that, for most people, is pleasurable and has a concrete purpose. It is often for this reason that students - and the adults they soon become - are so often drawn to the garden again and again. 

Physical education teachers have been creative in adding extra strengthening exercises into normal garden work days - have you ever moved moved mulch by doing five practice lifts every time you move the wheelbarrow? - and have also made strides to incorporate the most exciting part of gardening - eating - into lessons on nutrition and healthy choices. 

School gardens are certainly strongest when they are integrated into all aspects of a school community. Physical education is a natural fit for garden programs, and we here at WSGI are excited to celebrate this connection!
This article from CNN is a great starting point for those wanting to know more about the connection between gardening to physical and mental health!
Thank you to Cathedral Elementary School for submitting the above photos - don't miss the success story below about how they have integrated gardening into physical education and life at school! 


Growing Healthy Children 
Nutrition and physical education go hand in hand, so we had to post this nutrition education toolkit again. Growing Healthy Children contains activity cards for teaching about nutrition in the classroom, garden, cafeteria, and community. You can download an electronic copy here. Congratulations to Plymouth Elementary for winning WSGI's #GrowingHealthyChildren photo contest last month!
Creating a Garden "Circuit"
This article contains practical ideas for utilizing the garden as a part of physical education by setting up a series of garden activities designed to engage children in different types of exercise as they move through several stations. The Cooperative Extension Service also offers a basic guide for calorie expenditures associated with specific gardening activities. 
Article: School gardens grow kids' physical activity levels
This review from the Cornell Chronicle discusses a 2014 research project that showed a significantly higher physical activity levels among students involved in garden activities at school. The study showed that higher levels of physical activity also continued into students' lives at home.  
Funding Farm to School Webinar Recording
This webinar features National Farm to School Network staff, along with Barnraiser crowdfunding expert (and former school gardener) Marie Sayles, as they explore funding alternatives including grants, donations, fundraising events and crowdfunding -- and share stories from the front line of school gardens and other farm to school programs. This webinar aired on October 28, 2015, so the information is very recent!
Harvest for Healthy Kids Activity Kits 
Harvest for Healthy Kids, a program from Portland State University and Mt.Hood Community College, has created over a dozen vegetable activity kits for early learners. Each kit includes an activity plan, information for teachers, and a newsletter for parents in three languages.  
Active Early & Healthy Bites Guides 
The Active Early and Healthy Bites guides were developed by the Wisconsin Department for Public Instruction to support a healthier environment for children in the early care and education setting. Available in English and Spanish, with supplemental materials for how to use the guides and communicate with parents.

Events ... visit our Events page for more

Growing Healthy Children Photo Contest Winner! 

WSGI is excited to announce Plymouth Schools District as the winner of our #GrowingHealthyChildren photo contest! Plymouth will receive 20 free copies for the Growing Healthy Children toolkit, as well as a school garden care package!

Photo caption: What is the secret to growing healthy kids? Seeds! Plant them and watch the magic (aka learning) begin! 


Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch
Celebrate your CRUNCH with photos! 

WSGI was excited to join over 600,000 students, educators, and Farm to School supporters as part of the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch!

Don't forget to submit your Crunch photos by November 26th on the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch facebook page #WIApplecCrunch, or to Make sure you have appropriate school photo release forms for any students featured in your photos.
Continue sharing your Crunch story via Wisconsin press by sending out a press release about your event, and using all the hashtags: #GreatAppleCrunch, #F2SMonth, #FoodDay2015, and #WIAppleCrunch. 

Crunch Facebook Page


Save the Date: Farm to Cafeteria Conference Coming to Wisconsin
June 2-4, 2016 - Madison, WI

Save the date for the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, coming to Wisconsin in June 2016! The theme Moving Forward Together lifts up new and innovative partnerships to continue to build momentum and ensure long-term sustainability in the Farm to School movement.

Lend your expertise and stories to the farm to cafeteria movement by applying to be a presenter, panelist or put together a poster representing your research or a case study from your community.

Apply to present by December 4th, 2015.




Tasty Tidbits ... of wisdom, fun, and information

Garden Joke of the Month: 
Fungi: "Knock, knock."
Broccoli: "Who's there?"
Fungi: "It's fungi. Can I come in?"
Broccoli: "Sure, but there's not mushroom in here!"

Research Article
This study by the American Society for Horticultural Science, investigated the metabolic effects of ten different gardening activities in children. Results indicated whether activities qualify and high, medium, or low-intensity exercise. 

Success Story: Cathedral Elementary School

Beth Piggush loves seeing kids run from the playground to the garden to grab an after school snack. “Ground cherries are a favorite,” the Cathedral Elementary volunteer garden coordinator said. “Cherry tomatoes and beans are great too. Whatever they can find and try, they’ll eat.”
While after school garden snacking is an impromptu, un-programmed activity, it couldn’t be more in keeping with the message of the garden at Cathedral, which serves students from pre-K through second grade.
The garden at Cathedral excels at showing kids, in a very hands-on way, how to make healthy food and physical activity choices that are integrated into the fabric of daily life, just like the garden has been integrated into life at school.
Cathedral’s garden – which now includes five raised beds as well as berry and pumpkin patches bordered by pollinator-friendly flowers – began as a conversation about healthier lunch options at a PTO meeting in 2012, at which Piggush and one other parent volunteered to spearhead the project.  Since then, the Cathedral garden team has worked to connect the garden with core classroom curriculum, physical education, after school and summer programs, cafeteria offerings, and more.
Each spring, one hundred percent of Cathedral students are involved in planting the garden, with classes starting seeds indoors, planting directly into the garden, or both. Piggush and other garden leaders have also gathered resources for teachers to use during in-classroom lessons, such as puzzles with different plant parts, garden-related work sheets, and lessons from Got Dirt? and Got Veggies?
Cathedral’s Physical Education teacher, Jackie Czeiska, has also been highly involved in the garden. Czeiska was one of the lead teachers for Cathedral’s initial garden funding – a Team Nutrition grant – and has dedicated a full week of class time each year to teaching about healthy eating and gardening as a healthy lifestyle choice. She has also been open to using garden work projects as part of her PE classes, and had included taste testing of garden produce – such as this year’s rhubarb sauce – in the spring field day she organizes.
Because the garden is located directly next to the playground, students also have the opportunity to get involved outside of class time. Students are free to visit the garden after school as parents arrive to pick them up – including harvesting and eating produce. Cathedral’s after school Girl Scout Troop gets involved in raising and planting transplants, and students in the school’s summer camp program help out with harvesting, watering, and beautifying the garden with outdoor art.
After students have had their fill of ground cherries and other garden snacks, there is still plenty of produce to go around. Each year, some of that produce finds its way to the school cafeteria.  To help develop this part of the garden program, Piggush received a Buy Local grant from the Department of Agriculture, Tourism, and Consumer Protection. Through this grant, Cathedral was able to hire local chef Shawn McManus to train kitchen staff in fresh food preparation techniques, how to incorporate herbs and veggies from the garden, and where to source other local ingredients. “One of the favorite recipes was roasted cauliflower,” Piggush said. “It tastes like popcorn to the kids, and the kitchen staff still prepare it to this day.” Chef Shawn’s work culminated in a pizza-making demonstration where kids watched – and tasted! – the process of making pizza with garden veggies.  
The garden also reaches beyond the borders of the school itself, to involve families, and even students from the nearby university.  Families are involved via a PTO-organized Garden Club, which they can sign up for at the beginning of the year. Parents help out with garden maintenance after school, and everyone receives garden updates via the school’s PTO list serve and facebook page. 
UW LaCrosse students have also gotten involved via a nutrition field experience class, where they earn credit for assisting with school garden lessons, as well as prepping veggies for cafeteria taste tests. “This was my first big school garden experience,” former UW student Erin Moriearty said. “We worked on everything from planting beans in the classroom to teaching about what plants need to grow, to planting in the garden itself.”
Moriearty, who has gone on to lead garden education programs with Community GroundWorks and REAP Food Group, said the two biggest strengths she saw in the garden program at Cathedral were the wide-ranging support from staff and parents, and the garden’s location near the playground.
“I think we’ve really captured students’ interest while they’re in school,” Piggush added. “And that has caught on to families talking about gardening, and in the kids bringing the idea to their next school as third graders.”
Indeed, Cathedral’s garden continues to show students that healthy eating and physical activity can be rewarding and fun – as fun, perhaps, as running over to find a ground cherry, and then returning to the monkey bars. .

Read other school garden success storied collected by WSGI

Share your garden story #wischoolgardens

Tell the world what is going on in your school garden. Stories help build support for school gardens, and can help sustain your program via community engagement and school pride!  

Share your story.

For those new to WSGI, we couldn't leave out these amazing resources. "Got Dirt?" will walk you through starting a school garden, while "Got Veggies?" will help you implement a garden-based nutrition curriculum.  "Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening" is an online training that will help you establish and utilize a school garden.  You can watch the entire training or select specific chapters.

Find them all here.

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