Please welcome another wonderful post by our Master Gardener Colleen Alexandra. She has been a great help in starting Via Vita Academy's garden and establishing a love for the outdoors for our students. Enjoy the read!
It was late August and while many of us were thinking about harvesting and putting our gardens to bed for the winter, Via Vita Academy was in garden start-up mode.
I enjoyed the wonderful meal and the opportunity to meet the families and students who came out to participate in preparing for a new school garden.
Bellies full, we headed out to the garden area. Our task list included staking out and leveling areas for new raised beds, identifying an area for a grassy play area and general weeding and tidying.
Enthusiastic helpers picked up tools and got to work without prompting! It was a pleasure to watch how each child approached the work. Some stayed close to mom while others ventured off independently to learn how a landscapers measuring reel worked or to pound in wooden stakes. Older students explored nature with younger ones while others found the blackberry patch and spent some time berry picking and feasting. It was a happy mix of work and play!
With the school year now in full swing, the garden will become an integral part of the curriculum at Via Vita Academy. Already, students are planting, watering, composting, and maintaining the garden - experiencing hands-on learning that will stay with them for years to come.
Colleen Alexander is our guest blogger today and our garden advisor here at Via Vita Academy! Through her studies in Master Gardening, Colleen shares our passion for growing a new generation of garden-smart, healthy citizens. Stay tuned for her update posts on our garden as our students get growing!
Does this sound familiar to you?
Eat your veggies!
Turn off the TV and go outdoors to play!
I wish you would help around the house more often!
Why can’t you be kinder to your brother?
If you said “Yes!” to one or more of these complaints, then your family might benefit from a garden.
Gardens are living laboratories where life lessons come from hands-on experience. They provide a unique opportunity to help children observe, discover, experience, nurture and learn to take responsibility for tasks and outcomes.
Think it won’t work for you and your offspring? Then read on!
As a life-long gardener, it has been my experience that most youth and virtually all young children become curious and enthusiastic when spending time in the garden tending plants and growing food. And I’m happy to report that there is a growing body of research to prove that I’m right!
Studies show that gardening can help improve life-long nutrition, encourage more active lifestyles and build critical life skills in children. Whether it is potatoes grown in bags on a patio or a large one at school, any garden can be an invaluable tool to help your child get off to a great start in life.
Health and nutrition
Children who plant, grow, harvest and prepare fresh vegetables and fruit become excited about the opportunity to eat them. In light of the increased rates of obesity and childhood diabetes, many parents, teachers and policy makers are turning to gardens as an effective way to tackle these challenges.
Using a garden to provide enhanced nutrition education is a profoundly engaging and effective way to establish healthy eating habits and food choices.
A garden-based nutrition program that includes direct instruction and hands-on activities has been shown to increase children’s understanding of the relationship between food and their health.
Start early! Positive eating habits that are established before the 6th grade are more likely to continue into adulthood.
Regular physical activity in children develops strength, bone density and cardiovascular fitness, and helps prevent chronic illness like cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life. Gardening provides a unique opportunity to get kids moving while they learn curriculum based subjects and develop life skills.
A 2014 study by Cornell University revealed that learning that takes place in a garden resulted in children who were “significantly more physically active” compared to an indoor class. Further, these children were substantially less sedentary at home and outside school than their peers in conventional learning environments.
Studies have shown that school gardens can improve academic achievement, encourage community and social development, and connect children with global and local issues.
Rutgers Cooperative Extension research has also found that students who participate in gardening develop new learning styles and curiosity, critical thinking, informed skepticism, flexibility and open-mindedness.
So, what have you got to lose?
Introduce your child to gardening. You might be surprised by what you grow!
Together ,with Colleen Alexander, teachers, students, friends, and families, Via Vita Academy maintains its own year-round school garden. Planning, planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, preserving, sharing - the school garden is tended to by all of its members and is utilized daily as a valuable learning resource. To learn more about Via Vita Academy, click here.
Please welcome our guest blogger, Heidi, a parent at Via Vita. She shares her thoughts on our little school, or as she calls it, a "sweet little community school". We are overjoyed to have such wonderful families such as hers join our school. We hope you'll take a moment to read what she has to say. We're extremely grateful to have so much support.
Right now, Via Vita is a bit of a well kept secret.
Once word gets out, there will be a waiting list to this sweet little school community that is Via Vita.
Once you step inside, take a tour, chat a bit with Adele and Meghan, the school’s owners/teachers, it’s hard not to be won over by their passion.
I don't know about you, but I want my kids to have something interesting to report at the supper table each night. I want them to love learning and enjoy how they spend their 6 plus hours a day away from our home. And, I want to send them somewhere that I know that they are learning everything that they need to prepare them for their future. I also want to send them somewhere that the teacher’s know and really care for them. Sound about right?
Well, I’ve found it. The best new little school in town.
The best thing about Via Vita is that kids are having fun while learning. Even as an adult, I have learned that when something ignites my interest, I am much more likely to be engaged and remember it in the future. The teachers at Via Vita exude a passion for their jobs that is palpable. They are experienced in teaching methods that allow the student to bring their own interests to topics that are part of the curriculum. Now before you go thinking that this all sounds kind of wishy washy….just wait. They also teach all of the nuts and bolts that students need like Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts. The best part is that they do it in such a way that students are both learning and having fun.
You won’t find repetitive worksheets at this school.
One of the approaches that is woven into the schools design “Theme Based Learning” utilizes a particular topic, for instance, a social studies topic on the environment. The students may be asked to work on a project that involves research, writing, presentation skills and even Math. A theme based project my daughter worked on entitled “junk as art” required her to create something useful out of garbage. She decided on a bracelet made from pop top lids. She was required to research all of the items that would be used in making the bracelet and write a report outlining how long each item would take to break down in the landfill. She also had to describe the project in writing, and all the steps entailed in making it. In addition, she provided visual aids (photos) for her classmates to observe. She later presented the project to her class on powerpoint. This project and others like it teach many skills, but my daughter learned so much and gleaned so much enjoyment and pride for her finished product. This is just one example of how them based learning works.
Via Vita students will be moving their bodies approximately 2 hours daily. This high level of physical activity alone is something that very few private schools are able to offer, and something I am personally looking forward to. I believe kids are more likely to get out of bed in the mornings energized and looking forward to their day when they know they have gym and plenty of outdoor time every single day. In addition to the usual sports kids are exposed to, the students at Via Vita have the opportunity to try out new experiences and engage in the outdoors as often as possible. Classroom learning is often taken outside when it fits. Their interests come in to play, as well, including experiences that are driven by the students’ ideas and suggestions, like yoga, martial arts, drama, dance etc.
Did I even mention yet that the average class size will be 10 students? Yup, you heard that right -TEN. I know of no other school that offers such a strong academic environment with so much physical activity, outdoor time, and hands-on learning.
This little private school is our well kept secret. For now, at least. Us, other Via Vita parents - we know what we’ve found. A gem, really. We are proud to be apart of this little school community. For my kids and for our family, we’re looking forward to a fantastic year ahead.
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Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!