An Edible Schoolyard is Coming to Vine City! Horticultural Education at Atlanta Preparatory Academy

Atlanta Preparatory Academy is a charter school of choice open to all students residing in the Atlanta Public Schools district. The school incorporates a core curriculum along with a specialized curriculum called “Paragon” and a magnet-like Arts and Technology focus that links core learning with multiple learning styles. Paragon is a proprietary social studies/history/geography program that incorporates literature, drama, art, music, and technology. Paragon engages students with hands-on exploration and reinforces core morning classes by addressing varying student learning styles. Atlanta Preparatory Academy strives to work together with parents, involving them in the education of their children and forming a partnership aimed at increasing each child’s academic achievement.

Volunteer Stephanie Radbill working with APA students in the garden.

The public charter school’s Parent Teacher Organization has a parent-led Edible Schoolyard Committee, which has been developing a “farm at school” initiative with donated project management assistance from members of the Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network @ Eco-Action (AM-FFN) team. Everything started with a Hands on Atlanta volunteer day in the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year at which the principal Dr. Walker arranged for a simple garden to be installed. Interested parents and teachers quickly got involved with laying out and maintaining the initial plots, but also soon organized themselves into a committee that envisions a classic Edible Schoolyard as well as Community Urban Farm complex that would benefit both the school population as well as surrounding neighborhood residents.

Learning to love vegetables!

The fundamental purpose of creating an edible schoolyard is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables in our children. Research has shown that children who are intimately involved in edible schoolyards have increased their daily vegetable and fruit consumption by 2.5 servings per day. (American Dietetic Association, 2007) This evidence-based strategy substantiates the significance for creating an edible schoolyard. An edible schoolyard is a great tool to provide real-life experiences and to help students make the connection of how vegetables and fruit move from the seed to table.“Creating and Growing Edible Schoolyards: A Manual for School Professionals”

APA’s Edible Schoolyard site plan by Sustenance Design, LLC

With financial support from APA’s Board of Trustees, the Edible Schoolyard Committee was able to retain the site planning services of Sustenance Design LLC to imagine the possible layout of additional gardening space beyond the existing plots. Lindsey Mann and Kyla Zaro-Moore of the firm have been involved with many excellent school garden projects around the Atlanta area, so it was it was exciting to have them helping share a new horticultural vision within the Vine City neighborhood.  The draft plan shown below is the result of a collaborative process that incorporated ideas and resources from various stakeholders within the school community at APA, as well as expert recommendations from the Sustenance Design team.

Post Properties Inc’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources Linda Ricklef, along with other guests, visited APA for an awards ceremony at the end of our academic year last spring. The group had the opportunity to tour the existing learning garden at APA and receive a brief introduction to the Edible Schoolyard expansion plans, facilitated with the site plan created by Sustenance Design LLC.  This academic year, Ms. Ricklef contacted Dr. Walker regarding the options for Post Properties employees to volunteer their annual company community work day hours with APA’s garden project. Upon referral from Dr. Walker, the Edible Schoolyard Committee engaged Ms. Ricklef with the opportunity for her company to serve as the anchor financial sponsor of the expansion plans for the installation of our Edible Schoolyard site plan in addition to the in-kind volunteer labor of Post Properties employees.

Post Properties employees at the APA KaBOOM playground installation

Post Properties has already demonstrated their commitment to partnership and support of Atlanta Preparatory Academy through sponsoring the installation of a KaBOOM!™ playground during the 2011-2012 academic year. With the smart investment in environmental and horticultural education on behalf of the APA learning community, the company has again shown exceptional corporate citizenship and helped launch the fundraising drive to raise approximately $20,000 for the Edible Schoolyard construction and staffing budget. Rachel Mabie of California’s Cooperative Extension Office, states, “A school garden gives young people an opportunity to better understand their relationship with nature, creates a dynamic environment for learning core subjects and promotes cooperation through group activities. A garden encourages self-confidence and a sense of responsibility and belonging to one’s community.”

First Lady Michelle Obama in the garden with students

In addition to academic learning outcomes, the Edible Schoolyard at APA will offer the young people at this Vine City school a chance to live better lives. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program (of which APA is a participant) is a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. As she has stated, “In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.” The parents of the APA Edible Schoolyard Committee, the school’s leaders, and Post Properties Inc are also determined to follow the First Lady’s lead and make better learning through better eating a reality for the students.

If you would like to make a donation to help meet the budget goal of $20,000 or volunteer for installation of the Edible Schoolyard by October 18th 2012, please contact us at 404.991.0334 atl.metro.food@gmail.com or mail a check to Atlanta Preparatory Academy 569 Martin Luther King Jr Nw  Atlanta, GA 30314, c/o The PTO Edible Schoolyard Committee.

Principal Dr. Lynette Walker with APA students at a basketball game.

2 thoughts on “An Edible Schoolyard is Coming to Vine City! Horticultural Education at Atlanta Preparatory Academy

  1. Pingback: Prep Days for the Installation of an Edible Schoolyard in Vine City | Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network

  2. Pingback: Edible Schoolyard at APA – Work Day! | Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network

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