“It all happened because we said, ‘Why are you not recycling?’” explains John Pope, Executive Director of Keep Van Buren Beautiful.
Just five years ago, there was no recycling program to speak of within the Van Buren School District in Van Buren, Arkansas. Then one pointed question from Pope to the District’s Assistant Superintendent started the ball rolling on a program that has now collected over 1,000 tons of recyclables. Pope gave a presentation to the District’s Superintendent and interested faculty, emphasizing that by having recycling in the schools, the students would teach their parents how to recycle at home. He then forged a partnership with GreenSource Recycling, who provided recycling dumpsters which are accessible for community members to drop off their recyclables as well. In the 2014 Recycle-Bowl, King Elementary in Van Buren was the highest ranked Arkansas school in the Community Division. Pope continues to do outreach to schools and businesses in the area to further bolster the now thriving recycling program within the Van Buren School District.
Thanks to the Keep America Beautiful & Lowe’s Community Grant Program, The Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) successfully installed the Captain Planet Learning Gardens (CPLG) Program in 8 Ventura County elementary schools, impacting a grand total of 7,425 students!
CPF provided the schools with all necessary Learning Garden Tools to launch the program, including garden installation, interpretive garden signs for self-guided learning, garden-based lesson plans tied to standards (three lessons per grade K-5), lesson supply kits for each lesson, supplies needed to teach lessons outdoors, a mobile cooking cart, 2-day professional development/teacher training workshop, a plan for summer garden maintenance and a ‘Sustainability Toolkit.’
By participating in this program, students came away with a better understanding of their everyday connections to nature, a deeper understanding of food origins, and a heightened interest in fresh foods. When CPF chose Ventura County as a location to host a California Pilot of the CPLG Program, we wanted to:
– Increase the visibility and awareness of Keep America Beautiful within a county where there is currently no KAB affiliate
– Help children in this underserved county make the connection between the food they eat daily and the agricultural basin in which they live.
Through this program, students learned core subjects in the context of a garden, were able to taste and consume fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the garden, and participate in cooking demonstrations facilitated by the mobile cooking cart. Teachers reported that students were extremely receptive to trying new fruits and vegetables and were eager to spend more time in the garden!
Through a series of surveys we collected, we learned that even the teachers benefited a great deal as well! Many of our target educators felt inspired and engaged, felt that the professional development workshop hosted by CPF was one of the best they’ve attended, and in some cases, teachers began to write their own garden based lessons beyond those included with the Program.
Thank you Keep America Beautiful & Lowe’s for allowing CPF to bring our successful Learning Gardens Program to California! We hope to work with you again soon!