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Nancy’s Garden Grows Plants, Minds, and Healthy Bodies

By Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

As a botanist, Montana’s First Lady Nancy Schweitzer is a strong supporter of math and science education in Montana schools. Together, the Governor and First Lady launched a Math and Science Initiative to help Montana youth discover math and science in K-12 classrooms and higher education, find out about career opportunities, and explore Montana’s splendid surroundings. The Initiative’s newest feature, Nancy’s Garden (mathscience.mt.gov), brings fresh vegetables and healthy eating to the classroom.

Nancy’s Garden is a new opportunity that can help create the next generation of gardeners, scientists, and engineers in Montana,” says the First Lady. “The Governor and I hope teachers find this a helpful, hands-on resource to nurture gardening, promote healthy eating, and explore math and science.”

Nancy’s Garden provides an exciting gardening experience for Montana 4th grade students by supplying grow boxes, seeds, lesson plans, instructions, and other materials for their classrooms. The teacher’s guide was designed with the help of gardening and nutrition experts from the Montana Department of Agriculture, Montana State University Extension, and Montana Team Nutrition. The lesson plans take students through planting, growing, and finally eating produce from Nancy’s Garden. With tips from the Governor’s Office of Community Service, teachers are encouraged to connect their classroom garden to the community with volunteers and service learning activities.

“Montana Team Nutrition is honored to be part of the project,” says Katie Bark, Program Director. “Eating the veggies grown in Nancy’s Garden is a great way to celebrate with delicious foods students have grown themselves. Here’s how families can get involved at home by gardening with their kids this summer.”

  • Garden together in a container at home: Like the 4th graders involved in Nancy’s Garden, families can enjoy planting vegetables in containers when growing plants outdoors is not practical or when yard space is limited.
  • Garden together in the backyard: A family that gardens together can stay healthy together. Backyard gardens provide plenty of opportunities for fun outdoor activities - and a “sneaky” way to get kids to eat more vegetables. When children plant and take care of vegetables, they are much more likely to eat the products - sometimes before they even get to the kitchen.
  • Garden together in a community plot or schoolyard: Many Montana communities now offer communal gardening spaces, like the long running Garden City Harvest (www.gardencityharvest.org) in Missoula. MSU Extension provides information on finding or starting a garden in your town and many other gardening topics on their website (www.msuextension.org) and through local county Extension offices.

“Montana’s 4th grade students are in for a wonderful growing experience this spring,” says the First Lady. “I encourage families across Big Sky country to join in the fun and grow gardens at home too. It is such a natural, hands-on way to get students excited about math and science and engaged in healthy eating!”

For more fun, easy tips on healthy living, go to www.eatrightmontana.org/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm



Dayle HayesDayle Hayes, MS, RD
Author, Speaker, and Nutrition Therapist

Dayle Hayes is a registered dietitian committed to innovative, delicious nutrition solutions for busy families. As a consultant to Billings Clinic, she specializes in positive nutrition tips, eating disorders, and sports nutrition. Dayle graduated from U. Mass-Boston and received a Masters of Science in Community Health Education from U. Mass-Amherst.
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