The Blog

General Health and Wellness | August 24, 2015

Growing a Healthier Community: Colonial Hills Elementary

Last Saturday, Coach Terri Pitts led over 20 parent and school volunteers in building and filling 12 garden beds on their campus at Colonial Hills Elementary in San Antonio, TX. Their volunteer crew leveled the ground for even drainage, constructed the beds and a garden shed, and filled the beds with mulch donated by a local gardening store. They asked local high school students to create metal artwork with garden critters to surround the beds, added stones for students to sit on or use as tables for group discussions, and surrounded the land with a fence.

garden beds ready for planting

Terri and the other school staff have amazing plans for the new school gardens and the crops they will yield, including: using the gardens as a classroom teaching tool, giving crops to families in need, selling them to sustain the garden costs, entering citywide garden contests, and making their own salad bar for health fairs and family fun nights! Incredible, but expensive, right? With about 87 percent of Colonial Hills students designated as economically disadvantaged, how did they raise the necessary funds? With Growing Healthy Schools!

In its third year running, our Growing Healthy Schools online fundraising platform has helped schools across the state raise over $100,000 for health-related projects, resources, and equipment. Some school employees and parents use the platform just once to fund a project that will make their school a healthier place for students and staff, while others use the platform every semester to continually raise funds for something bigger.

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Colonial Hills Elementary has utilized Growing Healthy Schools in multiple sessions to fund recess equipment, and now their school garden! They serve a diverse population with a great need for education on healthy eating and physical activity. Terri decided the school and larger community could greatly benefit from school gardens, but she was extremely skeptical about raising enough funds. They set their goal at $770.00 and ended up raising over $1,600, and additionally won the $10,000 H-E-B Health Kit that session! “Collaboration has been the key component. We had to create a budget, and we had to plan our garden lay-out, which required NEISD Facility planning,” Terri shared.

“We promoted our project by sending out letters to community partners in the garden world. We also reached out to community partners within organizations such as the Mayor Fitness Council. We made sure our school newsletters, website, and morning announcements promoted our project.”

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Terri has seen the whole community come together around this project, through their multiple stages of fundraising and planning. “The school environment has improved so much. The students and the community are eager to work together to meet our goals.” Colonial Hills students will be planting and integrating core subjects during the school day, and Terri will lead a garden club after school! “Additionally, the garden ties directly in with all grade levels’ process TEKS regarding outdoor investigations and conservation. The garden provides a plethora of opportunities to practice basic mathematical functions such as calculations, comparisons, and measurements using hands-on activities. They can then translate collected data into a wide variety of charts, graphs, and reports. We will also being planting different plants from different continents (geography, social studies) and using their writing skills by keeping journals!”
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Colonial Hills was uniting their school community to create a culture of health long before they started their gardening project. They run an extremely successful KSHAC (Kids School Health Advisory Council) and a School Wellness Committee which involves the school nurse, family specialist, assistant principal, teachers, business partners, and parents, who all jumped onboard to promote and plan their Growing Healthy Schools project. Terri serves as the KSHAC advisor, empowering her group of 3rd-5th graders to come up with their own ideas to make the school a healthier place, and make their ideas happen!
The fall session of Growing Healthy Schools opens on September 14th. Visit growinghealthyschools.org and check out the FAQ to learn more! You can contact our School Programs Manager Sara with questions at: sara@itstimetexas.org. We can’t wait to see what healthy projects champions across the state create, fund, and make a reality this time around!

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