Learning to grow

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For many children, vegetables make up an objectionable part of their diet, but for a group of Arvada second-graders, that’s about to change.

Earlier this fall, three second-grade classes at Sierra Elementary School began a three-week program as part of a plant and animal unit. Known as “Veggie U,” this program teaches students the value and importance of nutrition and wise food decisions.

“The program really addresses a good part of our standards we need to teach,” said Brian Fassbinder, a second-grade teacher at Sierra. “It’s so hands on, from start to finish; it’s exciting for the kids to see that this is stuff they’ve grown.”

During the past few weeks, students at Sierra have learned how to plant different types of seeds; discovered the differences of gardening in four types of soil, and watched as the seeds began to grow.

“I like how we plant the seeds, get to see how we plant them first, and then plant them,” student Max Mervin said.

In the early stages, students get to taste a variety of vegetables including carrots, beets, and lettuce, to see what fresh vegetables taste like. From there, they begin to learn how to grow certain types of seeds, and then they plant those seeds under a grow light. The students then tend to the seeds and watch as they begin to grow.

“Whether we’re doing individual planting or group planting, the kids are excited because they get to do something with it,” Fassbinder said. “This is the section where they get to be farmers, and I have almost 100-percent participation.”

According to a press release, the program, crafted through the volunteer efforts of teachers, a physician and a nutritionist, was part of a plan to help integrate education and nutrition to help combat childhood obesity.

Currently, the program has expanded to more than 100 schools throughout the Front Range, and more than 4,500 classrooms in 32 states and Washington D.C.

Max, whose favorite vegetable is a carrot, has enjoyed what the Veggie U unit has taught him and is excited to learn more.

“I like how we learn to plant vegetables. If I ever need to plant a vegetable, I know how to do that now,” Max said.