Final report for YENC22-179

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2022: $5,190.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Riverview Community School District
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Marci Heulitt
Riverview Community School District
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Project Information


This project educates youth on the 3 pillars of sustainable agriculture practices and careers by: 1) teaching environmental stewardship through creating a garden bed and using a curriculum, provided by the MSU 4-H program for Junior Master Gardners,   2) teaching profit over the long term by creating a "farm market" to sell the vegetables the students grew in the garden for the community, and 3) developing an understanding of the quality of life for farmers we will have a farmer present to the students, and the students will have direct experience working in agriculture by working in the garden. 

Project Objectives:
  • To learn where their food comes;
  • To connect with the land;
  • To learn the larger cycle of the food system from farm to table to table to compost to garden;
  • To understand the relationship between food, cost, and the larger society;
  • To learn how to share resources of food with others;
  • To learn sustainability as the garden will be there every year, and the soil, and plants will grow and we will harvest every year and share with the community;
  • To learn the connection between soil, water, environmental conditions and;
  • To learn career pathways through direct experience, and develop passion.

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days
2 Other educational activities: Students mentored younger students about harvesting vegetables, and read books about the environment to the younger Kindergartners to seek engagement as well. Books such as The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss. Also, students created a student-led workshop on harvesting.

Participation Summary:

80 Youth
10 Parents
20 Educators
10 Other adults
1 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

Students were exposed to salient aspects of sustainable agriculture in the classroom; and then actually practiced the realities of the pillars of social, environmental, and economic sustainability which was the intent of this grant.  Again, the teachers at elementary level provided weekly reinforcing curriculum materials about environmental stewardship, discussed the quality of life of farmers (a local farmer is visiting soon), and the farmer's market will be up and running in the Spring of 2024 because we seeded Fall Crops.  Twenty of the educators are involved at Elementary level and this includes some High School staff.   

Students responded more to the direct hands on experience of working in the garden, watering garden, and the maintenance of the garden.   The elementary school is where the garden beds are located and the 5th grade students are designated as the "garden leaders."  They are now entirely engaged in this project to the extent that now that have taken ownership and pride so they easily take responsibility to water the garden beds, and weed as needed.  The students care about the vegetables growing.  

The Horticulture department of the high school collaborated with the elementary students along with the high school counselors about career pathways in this field; and the elementary students were savvy to concepts of sustainable farming, because of this experience.  The students collaborated by planting seeds into the garden and discussed sustainability and the importance of horticulture as a career as well.

The students harvested spinach.  Then they ate spinach, and they loved it.   They are planning a school wide meal with spinach as it is now growing back after it has been harvested.   Also, the carrots and beets as they are close to being ready for harvest, and will go along so nicely with the spinach.   However, the cucumbers did not make it so we will have to try again, nor did the tomatoes.

Overall, the students are learning how food grows, how to share food, how to connect with the land, and how the vegetables are impacted by the wind, the sun and the weather in general.

Our outreach program will begin when we start to get the vegetables in full production; and we plan to expand to the high school!  We are preparing a presentation for the Board with fresh vegetables.  Parents will be participating in the program by getting invited to learn from the students as well.

We are also coordinating with Corewell Health to implement a program with the garden and Forest Elementary which involves learning about nutrition through Cooking Matters program. The students will be working with the staff at Gleaners Food and Corewell Health about how to conserve food and cook with their families.

Learning Outcomes

80 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Students report changes in knowledge about where food comes from, how it is grown, and what is needed to grow food (soil, water, sun).

  • Students report that fresh vegetables taste different than store bought vegetables. Also, that it takes a long time to grow the vegetables but it is so "cool".

  • Students are excited to share in something bigger than themselves. Students think they could "make a difference" maybe help feed others "who are not so fortunate".

  • Students said that they enjoy doing the work and learning about real life, such as farming, soil, composting, farm markets. A student who pulled a carrot had literally never seen a carrot come out of the ground before.

Results and discussion:

Beets are almost ready!Overall, the results of this project show lasting impact for these students.  They now love spinach.  They now want to make a meal out of fresh spinach for the staff and students at the elementary school.  These behavioral outcomes would not have occurred without this grant.  The excitement on the students faces when they each "fight" over who gets to water the vegetables.  They now have to honor a sign up sheet to make sure the 80, 5th graders get a chance to water the garden.  Also, they had to create garden leaders to add an additional layer of supervision while working and supporting one another in the garden.

There are many different responsibilities to a garden which can be overwhelming.  Yet, working at the elementary level makes this rewarding.  The impact the program has had at the elementary level and where there needs to be more development is in the mentoring piece of this project.  The 5th graders are involving the Kindergartners at a level in which they may grasp the material which is in reading to them then showing them the garden.  

Also, it takes time to grow the vegetables and our team needs to also focus on Fall crops. We are also looking at creating a Farmers Market perhaps at different times of the year so we can integrate garden activities all year round.  

The social emotional screener data this year has not shown significant impact as far as changes in outcomes as of yet; however, the program is technically just starting and everyone is still very engaged in the process.   Also, the pre/post test is not yet completed as well the teachers who are running this project with myself plan to implement the post-test in April after the Farmers Market or after we can share more crops to discuss the sustainability piece of the pillars of sustainable agriculture.

Project Outcomes

2 Number of youth considering a career in sustainable agriculture
1 New working collaboration
Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:
Explanation for change in organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:

There is an increased level of engagement in sustainable agriculture in the school district.

Success stories:

What was most shocking was the love of spinach.  Students harvested spinach.  They ate fresh spinach.  They made a power point presentation about harvesting spinach.  Now they want to make a meal out of spinach.  This alone is worth every penny because of how good spinach is for you.  I am so unbelievably ecstatic about this.  The students were so inspired by this they made this power point:


and went around the elementary school and presented it to the classes while sharing the spinach.  How much more awesome can it get right?



Actually I don't have any recommendations at this time; I think that I and the students as well as the teachers and the entire school district are so very happy and proud of this opportunity that you have given the students to grow and to learn.   Thank you. 

I am not sure how come some of the pictures would not download or upload as part of the reporting.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.