Memphis School Spotlight: Highland Oaks Elementary

The Learning Garden at Highland Oaks Elementary School was full of enthusiasm from day one. They kicked-off their Learning Garden on October 20th, 2017, and month later they were harvesting arugula, Swiss chard, and collard greens. The students were excited to harvest the vegetables that they had been patiently watching to grow.

Fifth grade students from Mr. Cottrell’s class were the first to harvest some arugula.  Out of the 26 students in the class, none of them said that they were familiar with arugula. Erika, another Garden Educator, described the taste of the leafy green vegetable to be like a “spicy lettuce.” The students were then encouraged to try arugula for themselves to determine how they thought it tasted. Most students said that it was not spicy at all. When asked if they liked it and would try it again, most of the students raised their hands and said they would but probably in a salad with some ranch dressing.

After watching Mr. Cottrell’s fifth grade class, Mrs. Lawler’s  Kindergarten class also wanted to try the arugula. Mrs. Lawler said 17 out of her 22 students liked the arugula. A third grade class was able to harvest and taste the arugula as well. One third grade student reported back and said, “thumbs up, it’s cool.”

The students entered the garden not knowing what arugula was, and left the garden wanting to try it again! It is amazing to see students excited about vegetables. Learning Gardens do more than teach students about gardening and plants, they also allow students to experience and try things that they have not had the opportunity to try before. Students are more likely to try vegetables after they have grown them or have learned about them in their school’s garden. The garden gets students and teachers excited about fresh fruits and vegetables. This excitement then spreads into their homes, creating a culture of excitement around fresh foods, healthy eating, and knowledge behind the foods we eat.