Cooperative Extension Contra Costa
UC Delivers Impact Story

Helping children connect with their agricultural roots

The Issue

Helping children connect with their agricultural roots
A student's thank you note for the gardening program.
As more and more agricultural land in Riverside County is converted into housing, children become more distant from their agricultural roots. Gardening exposes children to science and agriculture and increases the likelihood they will eat more fruits and vegetables. Inadequate daily intake of produce by youth and childhood obesity are real concerns. These issues underscore the need to support school teachers in their efforts to start, maintain and use a school garden to promote students' education and health.

What Has ANR Done?

For the past several years in Riverside County, UC Cooperative Extension has supported school garden education as part of the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program (FSNEP). FSNEP trained school teachers to use the TWIGS (Teams with Intergenerational Support) curriculum to teach students about soil quality, seeds, water transport, different types of irrigation, how to plan a garden, plant parts and food safety. The TWIGS project has now expanded with involvement from 4-H program representative Jeanne Lothridge, Master Gardener coordinator Michael Henry, farm advisor James Bethke and the Riverside County Farm Bureau. During 2006, 4-H members and Master Gardeners helped FSNEP implement the TWIGS project at Emerson Elementary School. The students were enrolled in an after-school 4-H club named the Good Earth 4-H Club, and a Master Gardener helped teach some of the lessons. During 2007, Riverside County Farm Bureau provided funding to purchase supplies for six teachers from five schools to participate in TWIGS. In 2008, Bethke helped secure a plant donation for a new school garden at Valley View Elementary in Nuevo.

The Payoff

Students increase knowledge about plants and nutrition

In 2006, 33 students at Emerson Elementary (Riverside Unified) participated in the TWIGS project, and in 2007, 95 students from John Adams Elementary (Corona-Norco Unified), Pachappa Elementary, Sierra Middle and Amelia Earhardt Middle (Riverside Unified), and Cielo Vista Elementary (Palm Springs Unified) participated in the TWIGS project. An impact evaluation was conducted in 2007 with pre- and post-test data collected from 76 students.

The results show that 63 percent of the students increased their knowledge about plants and nutrition, 29 percent increased their ability to select nutritious foods, 34 percent improved practices in food preparation and safety, and 25 percent improved in eating a variety of foods.

Clientele Testimonial

“The students loved making greenhouse bags and, after their vegetables grew, they loved planting them in the garden. The 'Eat Your Plants' lesson fits in perfectly with one of our language arts stories." (Pachappa Elementary)

“The students really enjoyed the hands-on learning. We planted pumpkins and tomatoes in our class garden and the kids have really enjoyed it.” (John Adams Elementary)

Contact

Chutima Ganthavorn,(951) 683-6491, cganthavorn@ucdavis.edu