Conway middle schoolers growing healthy choices in community garden

CONWAY (WBTW) – Jessica Cheatle is a seventh grader at Whittemore Park Middle School with nearly two years of gardening experience thanks to a club at the school.

The Green Sparks club is something she and others can participate in to use gardening to learn about making better choices and how to protect their environment.

“Like eating healthy,” said Cheatle. “And getting exercise.”

The Green Sparks planted a garden recently with everything from tomatoes and beets to marigolds and eggplant, and the little green seedlings are sprouting up under a light in science teacher Alicia Hutchinson's classroom.

“I think all children of this age need to learn about healthy living,” said Hutchinson. “At this age, you can capture their attention a little better and hopefully make a bigger impact as they move into younger adulthood and adulthood.”

“We learn about the environment and how to keep us and our environment safe,” said sixth grader Rebekah Grissett. “It's simple things, that you can learn from the Earth.”

The idea for the Green Sparks came from teachers who wanted to help the community, and from Kristi Falk, executive director of The Wellness Council for South Carolina.

“I love teaching these kids,” said Falk, who, along with Hutchinson, meets with the group after school once a week. “They're just soaking everything up like a sponge.”

The school has plans to plant a garden once the plants are ready, and principal Judy Beard told News13 she hopes to put it near the school's cafeteria and secure it if she can get funding for a fence and a gate.  Last year, Falk said, the students planted enough to make a container garden, but Hutchinson had to take it home at the end of the year since the produce wasn't ready to be picked quite yet.

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