Danielle Katz: “Real School Gardens has Given Our School a Second Classroom”
Danielle Katz is a kindergarten teacher who is working with REAL School Gardens, a nonprofit headquartered here in DFW, to create an experiential outdoor learning environment for her students.
Danielle explains that REAL School Gardens “provides teacher to teacher training. An instructional coach comes out 4 times a year. She models a lesson for you and you can observe her with your kids. Then you get to teach a lesson and she gives you feedback. The coaches make it easy and fun in a relaxed atmosphere.”
After studying Spanish, Elementary Education, and Psychology at SMU, Danielle knew she wanted to work with high needs kids in DISD. She spent an “alternative spring break” during her freshman year doing community service with kids in Ecuador which inspired her to get more involved. She led 7 Alternative Breaks for undergrad and graduate students in college and now continues to lead Westcoast Connection trips for high schoolers – when she has breaks in the school year from teaching kindergarten!
“RSG has trained our teachers to come outside and use the garden as a second classroom. We have a whole new set of resources now. We can use the plants, the trees, and the grass. I love to teach the 5 senses outdoors versus from a book. The kids can taste the herbs from the garden – the mint, the oregano – herbs they might not even heard of. They realize, ‘oh food comes from the ground!’”
Michelle Riddell, who is on the Texas region board of RSG, shared a story where an abundance of a potato crop in one school’s garden inspired the kids to donate the potatoes to a local food bank. “While high needs schools are often on the receiving end of grants, RSG provided a way for the kids to be givers.”
She further explains, “While a school garden sounds cool – it’s so much more. When kids are exposed to healthy food, when they grow it, they’re more likely to eat it. And it’s also about continuing education for teachers, as RSG spends 3 years with a teacher after the garden is built. Research shows that teacher training improves teacher engagement and as a result, the educational achievement of students.”
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