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Growing Into Healthy Lifestyles

Sep 27, 2017, 10:52 AM

Garden Harvest From the Edible Educational Garden

The Lakeland School District has been focusing on healthy lifestyles for a number of years now—focusing on balanced menus, encouraging healthy snack choices, and working with those who have food allergies to provide viable options.

At Van Cortlandtville, the PTA has served as a main communicator to encourage healthy choices and work with the school community to create an environment which makes being healthy a way of life, not just moments in time. Our PTA Executive Board consists of only 4 members and a  small number of deeply committed volunteers. However, we have tremendous support from our amazing administration and faculty and an enjoyable  working relationship.  Our district motto is, “Together, we are better” and we are!

The PTA helped create an outdoor garden and worked closely with cub scouts to build a pumpkin patch and butterfly bush garden, which you can see in the courtyard each day. It is a visible reminder that what students and our community do each day grows. Good choices become like a beautiful, bountiful garden.

Our curriculum uses the garden at each grade level; planting, tending and harvesting throughout the year. The PTA supports an Edible Educational Garden, Creative Café and Outside Classroom, as well as a garden club. The harvesting each fall leads to a special meal shared by all in the cafeteria. What a joy it is to watch our children feast on their own food, grown in their home away from home backyard.

This year Van Cortlandtville was recognized as a School of Excellence because of the way it creates a community both with the school families and within the community itself. Though there are many things that we have done and do, Our garden is one of the best examples because it would not have been possible without the help of local community businesses, families, teachers and students. Honestly, the School of Excellence work was tremendous but worth the effort.  We tackled the application process in steps and had no idea ultimately where we would wind up.  National PTA advised us each step of the way providing goals and deadlines. Yes, it was more work but it’s truly something to be proud of for our entire school.

Our PTA also knows that healthy minds are needed as well as healthy bodies. We work hard to create an atmosphere that feels safe and welcoming throughout the year. Van Cort’s character education assemblies and programs such as DARE give students confidence to be themselves. We start that welcome feeling before our students are officially kindergartners by holding orientation and presentations for incoming families. The VCPTA began organizing a summer bus run full of activities to help students and parents feel welcomed, meet the VCPTA board, their teachers and other students. When planning family events and celebrations, a healthy choice food option is always available.  We also have an extensive offering of courses and activities for after school programs to further engage students and enrich their time at Van Cortlandtville. We hope you’ll take a moment to visit our website.

Carole Henkin currently serves as president of the Van Cortlandtville Elementary School PTA. She has come back to her hometown to raise her two boys with her husband Raphael after a successful international business career on the west coast.