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Center for Engagement and Community Development

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Project PLANTS Encourages Healthy Habits for Kids

K-State Engagement E-News, October 2009 (PDF)

by Alexa Hodes

Students in the high-tunnel garden

Students in the high-tunnel garden

To promote a healthier lifestyle for children, Candice Shoemaker, associate professor of horticulture, forestry and recreation resources at Kansas State University, has been creating gardens and high tunnels for fourth and fifth graders in the Manhattan-Ogden Unified School District. Students learn to grow their own fruits, vegetables and flowers. This study is called Project PLANTS (Promoting Lifelong Activity and Nutrition Through Schools).

Hoping to promote a healthier lifestyle, Shoemaker and colleagues say that when children grow their own fruits and vegetables, they are more attracted to eating them.

"One time, after a day of gardening with the students, all the kids had a bag of their own spinach. As they got into the cars with their parents, you could see them eating out of their bags. Their parents couldn't believe we got their kids to eat spinach," explains Shoemaker.

Gardening is also a great physical activity as well, and will get the kids off the couch and away from the television.

Shoemaker teaches how a garden can be a continuous activity. Previous research has shown that the care of school gardens are often a project that a teacher or two maintain, and once that care is no longer there, the garden fails. Shoemaker shows how to keep these gardens going long term, and hopes to create a model that schools can put into practice.

Partners of the Project PLANTS program include David Dzewaltowski, professor of kinesiology; Ted Carey, professor of horticulture, forestry and recreation resources; and George Milliken, professor of statistics, the Riley County Extension Office and Manhattan-Ogden School District.