Over the last several months, Desert Healthcare District/Foundation has teamed up with teachers, students and the school principal at Bubbling Wells Elementary in Desert Hot Springs to design, create, build and fund a school garden.
“Two of the District/Foundation’s areas of community health focus are healthy eating and active living,” said Herb K. Schultz, CEO of the District/Foundation, adding that teaching students about the benefits of growing their own vegetables and fruits is not only important, but can also be fun!
The funding for the garden was granted by Riverside University Health System (RUHS) to be used toward place-based health initiatives in Desert Hot Springs. As the District/Foundation secured the funding, staff worked with RUHS-Public Health through its Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention program to plant the seedling of the garden idea with Palm Springs Unified School District.
“School gardens are opportunities to stimulate classroom curiosity in an active outdoor setting. Students can participate in planting, growing, and harvesting vegetables – even preparing a healthy snack,” explained Andrea Morey, Program Coordinator for RUHS, on why their commitment to healthy programs for students includes gardens.
Palm Springs Unified School District was a garden collaborator, instrumental in both the approval process and in-kind donations to extend the necessary water lines, build the garden irrigation system and timer, and work by the grounds crew. The Bubbling Wells PTA is also a major contributor to the garden’s creation and future success. The PTA is working on fundraisers and a garden-work day with the help of parents is set for the spring. District/Foundation staff members Alejandro Espinoza, program officer and outreach director, and Vanessa Smith, health educator, were instrumental in the garden process including hands-on tilling of the soil.
Curriculum that helps the children learn about healthy eating is also provided to teachers via Smith and Espinoza or presented directly to the students by their teachers. Teachers Kris Woody and Aiden Albano-Bachtell established a gardening club for interested students who will maintain the garden year-round.
“It’s very exciting to be one of the first schools in Desert Hot Springs to have our own student-operated garden,” says Principal Omar Tinoco noting that the school garden is seeded and off to a vibrant start.
Desert Healthcare District is a government agency established by the state of California in 1948 to improve and support community health programs. For more information, visit dhcd.org or call (760) 323.6113.