After a night of rain, the sun made an appearance just in time for Dr.
Daniel Nadeau's morning visit to the Rea Elementary School's vegetable garden.
Nadeau, program director with the Mary and Dick Allen Diabetes Center
at Hoag Hospital, arrived Friday to speak with Kileen Cowan's kindergarten
class about vegetables and nutrition. They met in the garden, directly
outside Cowan's classroom at the Costa Mesa school. Here the class
had planted zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers and tomatoes.
"This connects us with the reality of where our food comes from,"
Nadeau said. "By working on a garden, kids can become more interested
in healthy eating. It's a chance to break away from the burgers and
fast food out there."
When Nadeau asked the class, "Who here has a favorite vegetable?"
hands shot up.
Shouts of "cucumber" and "corn" erupted from the students.
Other kindergartners couldn't help but wander to the leaves of the
zucchini plants. Most leaves were larger than their faces. Cowan's
class planted the vegetables in February.
Rea's school nurse, Laura Garcia-Chandler, spearheaded many of the
efforts to clean up the garden this school year, such as arranging volunteer
groups to pull weeds, trim trees and lay mulch and soil.
Garcia-Chandler is also a pediatric nurse practitioner at the HOPE Clinic,
a Costa Mesa center that has provided medical services to the Newport-Mesa
Unified School District for more than 20 years. Under the HOPE Clinic's
partnership with Hoag Hospital, Garcia-Chandler and Nadeau were able to
meet and discuss the needs of the garden.
"Hoag is a big supporter of the clinic and the community," Garcia-Chandler
said. "They said they were looking to support a vegetable garden,
and we had one we were working on. It was a perfect match."
This school year, the hospital's diabetes center has provided funding
for soil, seeds and gardening equipment.
Since the planting, Cowan has aimed to work plant studies into her classroom.
The students have been learning about the life cycle of plants and pollination.
"They used to be scared when they saw bees in the garden," Cowan
said. "Now they're happy to see the bees because they know they're
here to pollinate the flowers."
The students have also learned lessons about nature by observing their garden.
"Some plants didn't survive either because of insects or the
weather was too harsh," Garcia-Chandler said. "But that's
a natural part of life, and they're learning that."
With the garden, Cowan and Garcia-Chandler have noticed a greater student
interest in vegetables. They plan to have the kindergartners taste and
take home their vegetables once they are fully grown.