A teaching garden, dotted with fruit trees, vegetables and herbs—all designed to stimulate a student’s sense of touch and smell—is taking shape in a sunny spot on the property of Morning Star School, a special needs school in Orlando.
The garden is part of a comprehensive effort to create a lasting tribute to former Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) Trustee Mary Rumberger who passed away in 2013.
Ms. Rumberger had a passion for the needs of all children and was especially dedicated to the children at Morning Star School. Therefore, to honor Ms. Rumberger’s legacy, WPHF trustees provided grant funds to develop a school clinic in her name and help create a culture of good health on campus.
The Mary Rumberger Clinic is in operation, and the groundbreaking for the school garden will take place in February. The school has hired My Yard Farm to design, install and maintain the teaching/life skills/culinary garden on campus. A chicken coop will also be part of the garden.
Sarah Stack, a WPHF Consultant who has been working on the project, said the garden will serve a variety of purposes. It will be used to help students understand where food comes from and it can be used to encourage healthy eating and snacking.
Other garden-related benefits include:
- Children will get exercise during garden activities and as they help maintain the garden, while older students about to enter the work force will be able to build life and job training skills.
- Once harvested, produce will be used in the soon-to-be built demonstration kitchen where staff, students and families can learn healthy cooking techniques.
- Students living in a transition house on campus for students who have aged out of the school will be able to learn life and job skills, including gardening and cooking with the harvested produce in the demonstration kitchen. Morning Star School has partnered with nearby garden centers on job opportunities for their students.
School leaders also have been meeting with Nemours Florida Prevention Initiative team and Ms. Stack to discuss partnership opportunities. They are considering ways to adapt Nemours Healthy Habits for Life program for Morning Star students and helping the school develop health and wellness policies.
Finally, they are discussing opportunities to educate parents on health issues the special needs children may face as they age because they are living longer than in the past.