Here’s something new and different: ever been invited to a “Collard Appreciation Night”?! To be lucky enough to snag an invitation, you’d have to be connected to the CIS students in the “Garden Buds” club at Winterfield Elementary! The afterschool club was developed as a natural extension of the Winterfield Community Garden, established at the school in the spring of 2010. Developed and led by CIS Site Coordinator Anna Helms, the Garden Buds club meets weekly and throughout the summer to help care for and maintain the garden.
A little history about the Winterfield Community Garden, which led to the Garden Buds afterschool club: the garden was developed through a partnership between the Winterfield Neighborhood Association, Winterfield Elementary School, Communities In Schools, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, Mecklenburg County Health Department and the City of Charlotte’s Neighborhood Matching Grants program. After three years of planning and grant writing, hundreds of donated nickels and dimes, and close to 2,000 hours of sweat equity, the Winterfield Community Garden became a reality in May 2010.
The garden is unique in that it serves both the students and families of Winterfield Elementary School and the residents of east Charlotte. School/student plots comprise approximately one-fourth of the garden and, in addition to the Garden Buds club, is utilized by Winterfield teachers for hands-on lessons in nutrition, math, science and social studies. The other three-fourths of the garden is divided into 10’X10’ plots that are rented out to neighbors for $15 per year.
As the Communities In Schools Site Coordinator, Helms represents the school on the Winterfield Community Garden Committee and oversees the Garden Buds afterschool club. She works to develop partnerships with outside agencies and organizations to bring additional resources to the garden and to provide opportunities for the students to learn and give back.
“The Garden Buds recently donated four pounds of produce to the Society of Saint Andrews, “said Helms. “The kids were so excited and proud.” [The Society of Saint Andrews is a local gleaning organization that provides fresh produce to local soup kitchens.] “We also had a nutritionist from the Mecklenburg County Health Department visit in January to do a presentation about healthy eating habits,” Helms added. “The students learned about appropriate portions sizes, food groups and how to make a healthy afterschool snack on their own at home. “
The garden has been a fantastic benefit for Winterfield students said Helms, giving them so many opportunities for hands-on learning, both in academics such and science and math, and in “life lessons” such as nutrition and cooking. It has also helped strengthen connections between the school and the Winterfield community, and has brought in lots of new volunteers to the school, from within the neighborhood as well as outside the neighborhood.
But now, back to “Collard Appreciation Night”! As you read this article, the Garden Buds club is busy picking, washing, and preparing a mess ‘o collard greens for their event on February 16. “We’re planning to serve collard greens from our garden as part of a potluck dinner for Winterfield families and the neighborhood gardeners,” explained Helms. “The Garden Buds will have the chance to teach participants about the importance of collard greens in southern cooking and all about their nutritional value. Kids love to teach adults what they know, and this provides the perfect opportunity!”
Note: In addition to Winterfield Elementary, a number of CIS school sites have community gardens, including Ashley Park, Billingsville, Bruns Academy, and Druid Hills. And these CIS sites are in the process of developing gardens: Garinger, Performance Learning Center, Reid Park, Westerly Hills, and Whitewater Middle. For more information or if interested in volunteering, contact our Volunteer Coordinator or call the school directly.