The blossoming health and academic benefits of school gardens

By Carina Storrs, Special to CNN

(CNN)Many of the kids who go to John J. Pershing Elementary School in Dallas do not spend much time outdoors. They live in what some would describe as unsafe neighborhoods and their parents often do not let them go outside and play.
“They look at life through a window,” said Margie Hernandez, the school’s principal.
But these kids are at least experiencing the great outdoors when they are at school. Four years ago, Pershing built a garden that has grown to include a pond and four chickens. Teachers take students into the garden at least once a week for class or just for a walk, to pick some basil or water the chickens.
But these kids are at least experiencing the great outdoors when they are at school. Four years ago, Pershing built a garden that has grown to include a pond and four chickens. Teachers take students into the garden at least once a week for class or just for a walk, to pick some basil or water the chickens.
When they are in the garden, “children who normally would not speak or raise their hand are now engaging in a lesson without being prompted,” Hernandez said. And the effects seem to last after they leave the garden. The students are scoring better on standardized tests and are just more excited in general about school.
Pershing is one of many schools in low-income neighborhoods in Texas that are partnering with a program called REAL School Gardens. This fall, the program, which started about 10 years ago, will be bringing a garden to its 100th school. It will soon expand to the Washington, D.C., area.

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