Bell Academy has had an outdoor classroom for a few years but on Thursday, the garden space got an overhaul. “There were planter boxes, little benches and a chalkboard but they had gotten a bit worn out, so we decided to fix them up. We also added new raised planter boxes with a pavestone walkway around them,” said Claire Adams-Moore a parent of two Bell students. “I got a $500 grant from Farm to School which has a national program as well a one that is specific to Mississippi. I did my yoga training with Sonny Baker who is the co-lead for the Mississippi Farm to School program along with Dorothy Grady-Scarborough. I went to some of their conferences, which is how I found out about the grant. People also donated to the project at some of my yoga classes and I mowed my grandmother’s yard and used that money for the garden as well,” Adam-Moore said with a laugh. The Farm to School program helps to connect farmers and growers to local schools in order to provide fresh, quality produce for student meals. The organization also helps to support school garden initiatives with grant funding. According to their website, “There is no better way to increase health and wellness for our students than through the development of a school garden. School gardens can be a great asset to the school environment and the surrounding community.” “The type of school I always wanted my children to attend had gardens and outdoor spaces. When I first went to Bell, they had a Farm to School poster in the cafeteria and I found out that they promoted health education and I was sold,” she said. She wanted to help add to those important elements through an enlarged garden area. “Research has found that children who participate in gardening and school garden programs are more likely to try new fruits and vegetables. We would like to eventually have the cafeteria use the produce that the children are growing to supplement the foods the school buys. That way what they are growing is being used by the school and benefiting everyone,” Adams-Moore said. The garden project was a collaborative effort from various stakeholders. “There were teachers, the principal (of Bell Academy) and others including my husband, my dad and my good friend Kallie (North). Kallie actually went and collected all of the supplies for us yesterday. We wouldn’t have been able to do this today without her,” she said. “We hope to see the garden incorporated in the curriculum. In public school you have to follow a prescribed curriculum. That’s not really my area but there are programs being written for school garden programs,” said Adams-Moore. “When we became Bell Academy, our focus was on health, science, math and technology. This garden absolutely ties into our curriculum focus. Each grade will actually have their own planter box with different foods that they want to grow,” said Nicole Gilmer Spinks, a teacher at Bell Academy. “Our health curriculum has standards that would relate to this project very well. We could also tie into science with seed germination and when to plant and harvest. There could be connections to math through looking at how much soil was used and how far apart the pavers and seeds are being placed,” explained Spinks. “There are all different ways to tie this into what is being taught. For example, we do a school wide unit every year that compares the way we live today with how people lived long ago. We could examine the differences and similarities between how food was grown in previous times and how we grow food today. We could also examine the foods they grew versus what are we producing. You can tie in literature and books too, there is so much that can be done,” Spinks continued. Currently the space is already being used for more than just a garden. “Over on the other side of the planter boxes are benches and a chalkboard so teachers can bring their classes out here for lessons. It’s already a great resource and these new planters are only going to make it better,” added Spinks.