The heart of Bunnell Elementary’s Flagship program

IMG_6820Most parents are still learning the details of Flagler School’s Flagship program revealed two years ago by Flagler school district. But Bunnell Elementary’s green technology flagship is growing in front of our eyes. Impossible to miss the lavish, diverse and colorful vegetable garden or the commercial sized greenhouse. Cathie Zanella, known as Coach Cathie to the students, the school’s health teacher leads the nutrition program. I first learned about Coach Cathie from my 6 years old child, whose eyes lit up speaking about germs, bacteria and the importance to wash your hands. Instantly became obvious she has an amazing and passionate health educator. Never have I experienced a young child explain why we must wash our hands with excitement. Coach Cathie easily reached my daughter’s heart and many others.

Even though the school receives help from local businesses like, The Environmental Land Service who contributed over 30 cubic yards of mulch and delivered by the City of Bunnell, the biggest helpers are the pupils. Mrs. Brock’s fifth-grade students rush through lunch to spend the remaining available time finishing the floating hydroponic system for the garden. “They are responsible for adding nutrients, testing proper pH balances and making corrections when needed. We are running this small system on solar power. Students in my new rotation are repeating the same project but are incorporating some different ideas.” -says Coach Cathie. The principle, Mr. Dupont also gets his hand dirty and works with the students in the scorching heat, digging, measuring, watering the plants.

This autonomy-oriented teaching facilitates personal responsibility, self- esteem, passion and purpose important elements for children’s healthy development and success. Elements often missing from regular, old-fashion classroom environment. Studies have shown the educational benefits gardening offers, such as increases science achievement scores, improves the ability to communicate effectively, skills company executives are looking for in the 21st-century workplace.

The school’s commitment to building a generation of kids connected to their food and community found the way in second graders classrooms and in future problem solvers G.R.E.E.N. group. The students learn how to grow their own food, improve nutrition knowledge, encouraging them to eat healthier and helping make communities more resilient. Students from Mrs. Warren, Mrs. Narin, and Mrs. Smith class planted vegetables, observed their growth and will celebrate the harvest at home with the help of parents and at the community garden. The school’s G.R.E.E.N. group are reestablishing disappearing agricultural activities like farming in our communities and it’s their mission to rebuild the trust and relation with food thus, reducing dependence on vendor supplied produce. Nurturing a healthy planet, learning environmental responsibility is an indispensable part of Bunnell Elementary’s curriculum as it promotes learning a healthy lifestyle.

For now, our household will celebrate the tomato plant that survives through the summer in our backyard and makes into the salads. But inspired by Bunnell’s healthy food passion we’ll try to expand the vegetable garden with the help of our daughter, a Bunnell Elementary student.