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Students, adults learn sustainability through Dancing Moose Community Garden

Published October 3, 2012 3:41 pm

Healthy lifestyles • The Dancing Moose Community project is aimed at curbing childhood obesity.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As childhood obesity rates climb, communities across the country continue to seek ways to educate children about healthy lifestyles. Preschoolers through second-graders at the Dancing Moose Montessori School are indoctrinated from the start, with an on-site chef who provides balanced lunches to a spacious gymnasium where the children stay fit.

But the school felt there was still more to teach.

In the fall of 2010, Dancing Moose approached Stacy Perkins, who holds a degree in environmental science, to help design and facilitate a community garden. With financial backing from PROBAR, Perkins went to work building the framework, introducing curriculum and advising the community.

Countless volunteer hours later, plants are flourishing, children are learning and the garden was recently honored in Project Development by the Best of State Awards.

Perkins believes, beyond creating healthy habits, the children are learning practical skills.

"They learn to plant seeds correctly, what weeds are and what's edible," Perkins said. "I think the garden relies on all of their senses."

Students at Dancing Moose take time each day to water the plants and complete puzzles about the garden indoors. Every student gets at least 20 minutes in the garden three times a week.

"They bug hunt, plant and eat the produce after doing all of it," Perkins said. "They're pretty excited — they get to dig with shovels and trucks. It's hard to get them out of the garden once their time is up."

For adults who want to learn the same skills as their preschooler, Perkins also hosts community workshops throughout the season, with volunteer workdays every third Saturday.

PROBAR provides time for its employees to learn as well. The Dancing Moose garden is the first that the company has helped fund, but it hopes to expand in the future.

"They're allowed to go during work hours and garden and a lot of employees look forward to the opportunity," said Natalie Brown, mojo maven at PROBAR. "A lot of people have never gardened before, so they learn the entire process. From start to finish, everyone plays a part in it."

Brown said that obesity, especially childhood obesity, has become an epidemic in society. Working in the organic-foods industry has put the health of its employees at the forefront of PROBAR's mission.

"The biggest thing is to show that it's not that hard to grow all-natural, healthy food and it's not all that expensive either," Brown said.

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At a glance

Community members can register for a 4-by-12-foot plot for a $50 annual fee. Applications are subject to a lottery system for plots available.

Garden director Stacy Perkins holds a Master Gardener credential along with her environmental-science degree.

PROBAR is a local company with its corporate headquarters less than three miles away from the Dancing Moose Montessori community garden.