Pass Christian Middle School and Pass Christian Elementary School - Pass Christian School District - Student-tended vegetable gardens and health and nutrition education programs.
The Pass Christian K through 8 campus is shared between Pass Christian Elementary and Pass Christian Middle schools, with a combined enrollment of more than one thousand students. A large courtyard provides outdoor space for recess, classroom activities and outdoor eating. A small green space has two garden areas that are designed to attract wildlife, especially butterflies, and to grow vegetables.
The garden was initially installed three years ago with funding from a grant. For the 2013-14 school year, two teachers volunteered to oversee garden projects, which were supported by plant donations from parents and faculty. The spring garden was made possible by a one-time grant from the Harrison County Soil and Water Conservation District, along with supplies such as soil and mulch provided by FoodCorps.
Beginning last school year, student participation in garden activities was expanded through the creation of a Nature Club for elementary students, a five-month nutritional awareness program for sixth graders through FoodCorps, and after-school activities at the Boys and Girls Club, which is near the school.
During monthly Nature Club activities, students participated in scavenger hunts and learned about topics such as urban forestry. FoodCorps activities ranged from learning the process of seed germination to making healthy food choices. Gardening activities provided a motivational incentive for students enrolled in an after-school tutorial program at Pass Christian Boys and Girls Club.
Last October the success of the gardening program was recognized nationally when the schools received The Healthier U.S. School Challenge Award. Since August of 2013, school efforts have been supported by individual donations and community grants totaling $6,000.
Student awareness and interest have increased significantly as indicated in surveys conducted by FoodCorps last spring. Pre-survey information indicated that none of the 148 students had ever participated in gardening. Post-surveys showed that 100% of participants wanted a garden and 100% no longer had a negative perception of eating vegetables. The school garden has proven to be a valuable resource for students of all ages in increasing awareness and knowledge of the importance of plants and their role in a healthy diet.