Eugene Field Elementary is one of five schools in Tulsa to partner with Global Gardens. Global Gardens is a non-profit organization that engages students in community-based gardening.
The program is aimed at four primary goals:
· Students will improve their nutritional health.
· Through the process of using the scientific method, students will become active learners.
· Students will take a peaceful approach to themselves and the world around them.
· Students will develop the skills and attitudes needed to become agents of change in their own lives and communities.
Students participate in Global Gardens free program during school, after school, and in the summer. During school hours, students are taught a curriculum that will help them learn to grow and tend their gardens. After school and during the summer, students put what they’ve learned to practice spending hours getting their hands dirty in the garden.
The garden provides a peaceful, safe space for students to work and enjoy a new hobby. It also provides a space for kids to be kids. In a world filled with technology, activities such as making mud pies and discovering bugs are no longer popular among youth. With this opportunity, students get the chance to experience some of these things.
“I like Global Gardens because we get to learn different and new things about plants, each other, and we get to cook,” said 4th grader Mercee Bottoms. “I like getting dirty and playing with the worms. I also like to learn about plants and cooking from books.”
Mercee has been a part of the Global Gardens program for three years now and loves it.
Global Gardens program director Symon Hajjar has been with the program for eight years.
“I love Global Gardens because it's a place where kids get a say in what we do. We don't just figure everything out and teach it to kids. We as teachers feel we can learn just as much from being in the programs with kids as they can learn from us,” said Symon. “We like to think of the garden as the great equalizer or common ground. In the garden, everyone is the same. It doesn't matter who you are, what you do, or where you come from, if you want carrots, you're going to have to get your hands dirty.”
The gardens' purpose and level of success caught the attention of a special guest. Olympic medalist and six-time world champion Sugar Ray Leonard accepted an invitation from Eugene Field’s Global Gardens family.
“I made an impact in the ring,” Leonard said, “but I want to make a stronger impact outside the ring. Hard work, being around good people, gardening, being respectful — all of those things [are positive].”
Leonard spent almost two hours with the students. He spent some time answering questions and learning about the program. He then went outside to the garden and received a world-class tour. The students were excited to show Leonard their plants, let him smell peppermint leaves, and show him worms.
"He was interested in us, the plants, and everything in the world. I got to show him muddy carrots,” said Mercee.
Symon Hajjar was most impressed with the attention Leonard gave the students.
“I liked that he listened. He seemed really interested in the garden, the students, and actually listened to everything we had to say. That was cool.”
During his visit, Mr. Leonard was given to a refreshing treat. One of the students had grown watermelon in the garden and decided to share. Leonard spoke with the students about dreaming big and being agents of change, which according to Symon aligns with the program goals.
“We get to actually do things and not just talk about it. Being in the garden helps you to realize you can actually change things if you work hard enough.”
To learn more about the Global Gardens program, please click here.