Teaching garden sprouting at Lincoln Magnet School
Albanyherald.com. Jennifer Maddox- Parks. February 28, 2013.

Some hands-on education cropped up at Lincoln Elementary Magnet School on Thursday. Students from the Magnet School in Albany, with the help of some volunteers, began work Thursday morning on harvesting the American Heart Association and Phoebe Community Visions Teaching Garden on the school's campus as part of an effort officials say will help build healthy bodies and minds

The students were able to get their hands dirty Thursday morning while harvesting their American Heart Association (AHA) and Phoebe Community Visions Teaching Garden, an initiative made possible with a grant from its two namesake organizations that officials are hopeful will help build healthy bodies and minds.

Representatives from the Heart Association, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Phoebe Community Visions and the Dougherty County School System were among those present when students from all of the school's grade levels worked with volunteers -- some of them their parents and grandparents -- to shovel dirt from the campus' courtyard and into the plots that their plants will grow in over the course of the next few weeks.

"This is one of the most exciting community projects we've been involved in," said Darrell Sabbs, community benefits coordinator for the hospital. "(With this garden) we are able to teach these children how important it is to (maintain) a garden and eat right.

"Some say that eating healthy and eating smart ...some can't afford that. It is easy to understand how to grow your own food."

Officials say the garden, the second of its kind in Georgia, was created using AHA science and nutrition guidelines, as well as information from gardening and education experts. It functions as a real-life laboratory that combines nutrition education with garden-based learning. Students can learn how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits.

The idea is based on studies indicating that participating in school gardening programs can improve students' attitudes about fruits and vegetables.

Ray Knight, an Albanian who once played for the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets, has some experience that spoke to the importance of heart health. Unhealthy lifestyle habits ultimately resulted in his having to undergo triple-bypass surgery several years ago.

"The whole thing involved in this is trying to have a good heart," Knight, the AHA co-chair, said. "We urge everyone to encourage heart health.

"It is certainly critical to eat right. Eating right is probably the most important thing. The kids are having a great time; they are excited to plant something they can see grow."

The other teaching garden in Georgia is located in the Atlanta area, Knight said.

Jill Cribbs, a kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Elementary, was instrumental in bringing the Albany teaching garden to reality.

"It is a community effort to teach children about healthy eating habits," she said. "There is a such a push for technology, but the hands-on approach is important. That is the connection we want them (the children) to make.

"We hope for it (the garden) to be very effective, and that they (the children) will be more aware. This is to fight childhood obesity, and we want to fight obesity by starting patterns early -- as that is what we think will carry into adulthood."

Cribbs said that plans call for the garden to be harvested at least twice over a minimum period of two years. In that time, there will be lesson plans incorporated into the project's cultivation, she said.

Data available from the AHA show that about one in three American children is now overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. The result has been a broad range of health problems that previously weren't seen until adulthood, including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels -- and even psychological effects such as low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.

The Albany Housing Authority and the Dougherty County Cooperative Extension Office Master Gardeners are among those volunteering to help maintain the children's plots, officials say.

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