Guest post by Leesa Carter, Executive Director, Captain Planet Foundation
Based on the critically-acclaimed animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) was co-founded in 1991 by media mogul Ted Turner and producer Barbara Pyle. Since then, CPF has played a critical role in helping to ensure that the next generation of business leaders and policy makers are environmentally literate citizens who leverage technology and information to manage and protect the air, land and water upon which all life depends.
CPF is a grant-making foundation that has distributed more than $2.5 million to over 1,800 hands-on environmental education projects with schools and youth-serving non-profits in all 50 U.S. states and 23 countries. More than 1 million children have directly participated in and benefited from these educational projects. In addition to its Small Grants Program, the Captain Planet Foundation also operates: Project Learning Garden (PLG), the Leadership Center, SAGES, Planeteer Clubs and a number of other science education initiatives that exploit the intersections between technology, innovation, the environment and personal action.
In its first 20 years, CPF’s Small Grants Program funded over 750 school or community gardens, outdoor learning labs and pollinator gardens. Captain Planet Foundation’s innovative Project Learning Garden was developed using the best practices and models from those grantees in order to provide schools with strategies for building effective and sustainable garden-based learning programs. The goal of PLG is to: integrate school gardens with core subject lessons; connect gardens to school cafeterias; help students develop an affinity for nature and an early palate for fruits and vegetables; and increase teacher capacity for providing project-based learning for students.
"One key element often overlooked in getting kids to eat better is the importance of how they eat at school," says Kyla Van Deusen, CPF's Project Learning Gardens program manager. "Kids learn how to enjoy fruits, vegetables and salads as a part of lunch, and this program has a direct impact on developing their palates from an early age. That palate development can also have an impact on how their parents eat, home meal preparation and childhood obesity prevention. Parents often report that their children ask them to buy new vegetables at the grocery store after growing and cooking the veggies themselves as part of a school garden program. One five-year-old said she preferred eating raw Brussels sprouts in the garden to her sour gummy worm treat!"
Teachers at CPF Learning Garden schools receive hands-on training, garden-based lessons aligned to national standards, lesson kits filled with supplies, a schoolyard garden, a fully-equipped mobile cooking cart and summer garden management. By the end of 2014, the program will have 135+ PLG schools in public schools around metro-Atlanta and in a pilot program in Ventura County, Calif.
This Fall, FoodCorps came to Georgia and CPF was thrilled to be selected as a service site for four amazing service members: Andrea Blanton, Sarah Dasher, Lauren Ladov and Bang Tran. FoodCorps is providing support to Project Learning Garden schools by doing garden tastings with the mobile cooking cart, supporting teachers as they perform PLG lessons for the first time, working with cafeteria teams to encourage local procurement decisions, and connecting chefs and farmers to schools for future support of the PLG program.
Project Learning Garden lessons are available free and can be downloaded from the CPF website. CPF recently launched a partnership with Pratt Industries that will allow any U.S. elementary school (with an existing garden) to order the classroom lesson supply kits at cost – which is about $400 for 18 lesson kits (3 lessons per grade, K-5). Schools can also order the Project Learning Garden mobile cooking cart at cost (about $725 – shipping included).
As part of our Farm to School Month sponsorship this year, CPF is donating the full-school lesson supply kits (K-5) and mobile cooking carts to five lucky, winning schools! Find all the contest details here. For more information about PLG or to order kits and carts, visit projectlearninggarden.com.