green thumb

EPA Grant to Schools Helps Bring Green Thumbs and Healthy Eating to Kirksville, Mo.

Introduction by Kathleen L. Fenton

Teagan Scheurer and Levi Boyer plant pumpkin seeds at the Early Childhood Learning Center. Children will also help harvest the vegetables from their seeds.

Teagan Scheurer and Levi Boyer plant pumpkin seeds at the Early Childhood Learning Center. Children will also help harvest the vegetables from their seeds.

EPA Region 7 awarded an Environmental Education grant in late 2015 that is funding gardening lessons and nutrition classes in the Kirksville School District in Kirksville, Mo. Karen Keck, project manager, has engaged various youth as students, interns and volunteers, not to mention the city’s businesses and senior residents.

Many hands-on, outdoor activities happened this summer. The following blog by Karen gives just a taste of what was accomplished. Besides the good work of the school district, my favorite part of this grant is seeing the happy faces of the students, as they learn about and engage in their environment.

By Karen Keck

The Green Thumb Project had a great summer of activities through the work of people taking the lead on projects at the school and in the community. Four summer interns and our grant coordinator, Josh Ellerman, and an AmeriCorps member, Derek Franklin, were employed in educating various groups about gardening and healthy eating.

Derek Franklin works with a Village 76 resident and Green Thumb Intern Kaitlyn Meyer to check the health of the "veggie squares," personal gardens created for residents.

Derek Franklin works with a Village 76 resident and Green Thumb Intern Kaitlyn Meyer to check the health of the “veggie squares,” personal gardens created for residents.

Intern Cole Haugen maintained the garden at the Early Childhood Learning Center. Additionally, Cole presented interactive lessons to the children who attend the center during the summer.

Kaitlyn Meyer and Becca Elder were supported by the Kirksville Housing Authority to build, maintain and move “veggie squares” (4-by-4 raised beds) outside the doors of elderly residents at an independent living community, Village 76. They held events with this community through the summer, usually involving vegetables and herbs and plenty of conversation. Kaitlyn and Becca also contributed to educational activities at a subsidized housing area in Kirksville.

Amanda Thomas was hired to make t-shirts for the project, spruce up the learning garden at the schools, and find creative ways to advertise the project throughout the city. Justin McKean also worked at the learning garden, weeding and planting to keep it looking good throughout the summer and making sure it would be ready to use for classes and after-school programs when classes began.

EPA's Kris Lancaster participates in an outdoor environmental education program, sponsored by the Kirksville School District in partnership with the Green Thumb Project.

EPA’s Kris Lancaster (left) participates in an outdoor environmental education program, sponsored by the Kirksville School District in partnership with the Green Thumb Project.

Together, they led a “Seed to Plate” camp and presented garden programs to children enrolled in a YMCA summer program. Overall, a variety of engaging activities were implemented for a wide variety of people in Kirksville!

About the Introducer: Kathleen L. Fenton serves as the Environmental Education Program Coordinator in EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. She has worked with communities on environmental health issues, environmental education, and Healthy Schools projects for over 20 years.

About the Author: Karen Keck is the outdoor education coordinator for the Kirksville School District, and teaches environmental science, earth science and biology at Kirksville High School. She is the current chairperson of the Green Thumb Project Board of Advisors.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Hoping for an Early Spring

By Lina Younes

When news reports across the United States announced that Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog, did not see his shadow, I couldn’t have felt happier. Given the inclement weather we’ve had this winter, the mere thought that this ground hog was heralding an early spring, was music to my ears. Even though the ground hog’s predictions are not scientific, I’m sure there are many people across the country that want to cling to that positive thought even if for a brief moment.

In light of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions, I ventured to my back yard to see what I needed to do in preparation for spring. My garden’s situation is pretty dismal. A magnolia tree nearly broke in half due to heavy snow and ice. Several bushes will also require major pruning. However, before bringing out the shears or even thinking of adding any chemicals to the soil, I decided to do some research on greenscaping on our website and found an interesting seasonal planning calendar that gives some good pointers. I wanted to share it with you.

Springtime is one my favorite seasons. In the Washington, DC area we are fortunate to enjoy a wide variety of flowering trees and shrubs that usually make an early appearance once the temperatures start getting warmer. The beautiful cherry blossoms motivate tourists and residents alike to visit our parks and monuments during springtime. I think of it as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors after months of virtual hibernation.

Even though we’ve had unseasonably cold temperatures in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, when you put things in perspective, things around here haven’t been that bad in comparison the weather in neighboring states. So whether you have a green thumb or simply want to enjoy the outdoors, it doesn’t hurt to hope that the ground hog’s predictions will be right this time.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.