“We really enjoyed getting GrowingGreat’s Grab-and-Grow kits because they gave us something exciting to do after remote learning at home. My mom, my brother and I had a great time working together. Every week I felt like I was getting a special surprise.”
-Ivonne, 4th Grader
GrowingGreat is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit and pioneer in garden education, serving 20,000 young people each year across Los Angeles and nationwide, 95 percent of whom attend Title I schools. The organization’s mission is to empower children to make healthy food choices through hands-on science and garden education.
GrowingGreat’s programs provide an opportunity for children to plant, care for, harvest and taste a variety of fruits and vegetables while exploring nutrition and STEM activities and developing literacy and numeracy skills. In the urban regions where GrowingGreat operates, this interaction in the garden may be a child’s first opportunity to taste something they have grown.
Over the past year, GrowingGreat has worked with longtime community partners to develop “GrowingGreat from Home” a vibrant garden, STEM and nutrition program that engages parents, teachers and children virtually. Two such partners are Para Los Niños Preschool and Maple Primary Center. At Para Los Niños, GrowingGreat educators have led parent/child cooking classes featuring accessible ingredients and simple, healthy recipes. Each family is provided the ingredients prior to the virtual class so they can cook alongside GrowingGreat’s educators.
At Maple Primary Center, GrowingGreat is sending more than just ingredients home through Grab-and-Grow kits, which feature instructions in both Spanish and English. Each kit includes “Planting in the Kitchen” which provides families the materials to plant their own herb and vegetable seeds, “Dissecting a Seed” which challenges families to explore what is found inside of the seeds we eat, and “See, Hear, Smell, Touch and Taste” which empowers families to use their five senses to explore the herbs they have grown and make a delicious and healthy snack.
“GrowingGreat helps us teach children to try new things and respect the likes of others. In interactive lessons, students use all five senses to learn about fruits and vegetables and make connections to their favorite books and stories.” -Sharyn Clark, Principal at Maple Primary Center.
Both Maple Primary and Para Los Niños have also been active participants in the GrowingGreat PenPal Club, which provides members with free bi-weekly, bilingual STEM activities and demonstration videos, as well as GrowingGreat’s Reading Club which presents culturally-relevant literature and offers book giveaways to families. In addition to GrowingGreat’s local partners, the PenPal Club has grown to encompass 18 organizational partners from six different states, keeping the GrowingGreat team in touch with the teachers, administrators and families they worked with in-person prior to Covid-19.
Although the pandemic has posed new challenges for reaching youth with engaging STEM, nutrition and garden education, over the past year GrowingGreat has been able to impact more families than ever before, engaging parents as co-explorers and empowering youth to get creative in their kitchens and even eat their experiments. GrowingGreat plans to continue expanding “GrowingGreat from Home” programs both during and beyond Covid-19 closures to ensure that engaging and responsive programming reaches all Los Angeles community partners and families.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining GrowingGreat’s PenPal Club and getting access to 30+ free, bilingual STEM activities, email [email protected].