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Teaching school garden in the plans at Tool Elementary

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Community groups combine forces to create a teaching school garden to feed community

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TOOL–There are big plans at Tool Elementary for the 2021-22 school year. Plans that include the creation of a teaching school garden. 
Last month, MISD’s Tool Elementary School Principal Brandi Sutton received an unusual call from the Cedar Creek Garden Club (CCGC). The club, currently in the process of reinventing their organization’s purpose in the community wanted to check the school’s interest in a teaching school garden. 
As it was, Sutton had long dreamed of a school garden and had already put pen to paper in designing the layout, “A garden has always been on my wish list. I had already picked the tree that would provide the best natural setting for the outdoor learning center.” In hopes of her idea to get traction, she mentioned her plan to her teachers and MISD administrators and was met with just enough enthusiasm and interest to keep going. She just needed to find the bridge between dream and reality. 
Executive Director of the Community Food Pantry in Tool Vicki Dumont, was having the same dream and reached out to Sutton in late 2020 to discuss the needs of the community and if there could be a solution to a school garden at Tool Elementary. “The Food Pantry serves an average of 400 families a month,” stated Dumont. She lamented the lack of fresh produce she can deliver to area families and added, “What this garden could do for our students and community is game-changing.”
An organization formed in 1975, the CCLGC has been a group enthusiastically focused on the love and the art of gardening. Now, through the lens of recent experience, the club saw a need to expand their mission priorities to include an in investment in education and nutrition for the benefit of future generations of gardeners. 
“I’m neither a gardener, a teacher or a parent. Yet here I am, promoting the idea of a teaching garden at Tool Elementary,” says newly-elected President for the CCGC Debbie Bozeman-Zook. “There are so many pay-offs to the students and this community when the children learn the lessons a garden can teach.” 
Many studies show that school gardens provide a context to teach students to be advocates for themselves, their communities and the earth. By cultivating a connection with nature, gardens foster a sense of environmental stewardship. By providing an environment for conversations about the food system (the way food is produced, distributed, prepared, consumed and disposed of or recycled), gardens encourage students to think critically about the food they eat and gain life-long skills in making healthy choices.
“Our belief is that the community will come together and support the garden in every way possible,” said Bozeman-Zook, adding that, “Monetary donations, contributions of equipment and skill, volunteer support…we will be reaching far and wide to ask for your help in this very important project.” Learn more about how you can be a part of this project at www.foodpantryintool.org.