PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Some Pascagoula students are learning how to fight childhood obesity with fresh vegetables. On Friday, they planted the first Teaching Garden in South Mississippi. The unique project can help students grow into healthier adults.
Their tiny hands eagerly picked up shovels and they started digging up the dirt.
"That was the funnest thing. I looked like I was in mud," said third grader Laurel Paul.
Third graders at Cherokee Elementary School planted a variety of seeds and tiny plants behind their campus. The produce ranged from herbs like cilantro and thyme, to veggies like collard greens and cauliflower.
"I'm planting beets. It was fun," said third grader Michael Marioneaux.
Chevron and the American Heart Association teamed-up to create the first Teaching Garden. The goal is to help children plant the seeds to a healthier lifestyle.
"Childhood obesity is an epidemic in South Mississippi, so the American Heart Association is taking a more proactive approach and what we want to do is we want to educate children on how to live healthier lives," said American Heart Association Regional Vice-President Christin LeBoeuf.
"Only 24-percent of children in Jackson County eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables a day. So our hope is starting here, we want to educate our children and grow that," she added.
The students will take turns tending to their garden, from weeding to watering. Along the way, the garden will also serve as a valuable teaching tool.
"I think it's a great experience for the kids. They get to learn about nutrition, and we're also tying it to our curriculum. They get to do writing journals about what they see. They get to learn about the plants, the different parts," said third grade teacher Jeana Delancey.
Once the greens take root and grow, the students will get to harvest their crop.
When asked what he'll try first, Michael replied, "Beets, because I've never tasted one."
And that's a tasty benefit of the project, getting to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The plants are supposed to survive the winter months. The students and teachers hope to get their first taste of the fresh produce in early spring.
The American Heart Association has a goal of planting 500 Teaching Gardens across the country.