YELLVILLE, Ark (KTHV) -- The Delta Garden Study is a $2 million study sponsored by the USDA and coordinated through the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute.
Yellville-Summit Elementary is one of seven selected sites to plant, grow and harvest a garden this year. With the garden, the lesson plan is to bring science, art and even math, outside.
As school curriculum changes and food fads come and go, one thing remains: a healthy diet for young minds AND bodies is crucial to success.
The dirt on the sixth graders shoes in Mrs. Thieme's classroom isn't from the playground today. Their school supplies are more than just pencils and paper, they're using shovels and rakes.
One of seven schools in this year's Delta Garden Study, Yellville-Summit Elementary is home to a new greenhouse, garden beds, and all the growing opportunities young minds could imagine.
"So far we've just been working on just getting the grass up and just a couple of rocks. But, not that far yet. We did get to try a couple of basil leaves, right there. It tasted pretty good!" says Katie Halliday, one of the students who gets to spend two days a week in the garden.
"Yeah I think it's pretty cool because we get to try things we wouldn't think of trying outside of the garden. And that's one of our rules: we have to try everything at least once." says Halliday.
Program coordinator Emily English says this school year the program takes place on seven campuses called "intervention sites" and five other campuses called "comparison schools."
"We take the required science frameworks for sixth, seventh and eight grade, and apply them to garden concepts and vice versa. We use the garden as a hands-on living laboratory, per se, to teach those frameworks the teachers are required to teach per the state." says English.
One of those teachers is Renee Thieme. There may be few classrooms where a cookbook and rainboots fit in, but Thieme's sixth grade science class is one of the elite.
Thieme says, "I believe in teaching them how to eat healthier foods and we get to taste what we grow in the garden."
It's a diversion from the textbooks for the students.
"We have a lot of students that are not involved in sports and so they spend a lot of time in front of the tv and I just feel like the garden will get them out there, moving and more exercise." says Thieme.
They'll also learn about responsibility and good nutrition.
"Oh they beg for it. They want to go every day. Instead of having class they want to go every day!" says one teacher, who's never had a garden incorporated into her curriculum until this year.
The program gives each participating school all the materials and tools they'll need including a full time garden manager, and the lesson plan for success. Once reaped, the students prepare their produce in the cafeteria and at home.
English says, "I think they're surprised that they actually enjoy some of these things that they've maybe heard of, maybe not heard of. And they never would dream of eating it fresh or raw. So it's been fun to see."
Healthy, affordable food, creative thinking outside the 4 classroom walls.
As the Delta Garden Study spreads across the state, more students are finding it's fun to play in the dirt.