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Newark Charter School Incorporates Planting Into Every Lesson — Even Math

Teachers, Students At Philip's Academy Charter School Have Practical Green Thumbs

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NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Just about every parent struggles with how to get their family to eat healthy, especially their kids.

Well, there’s a school in Newark that’s taking the fight to a whole new level — by finding a way to make sure the lessons are learned at school and at home, CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported Monday.

Hsu got a chance to visit the rooftop garden at Philip’s Academy Charter School, where teachers bring their lessons alive by incorporating planting in everything they teach — even math.

“They can identify their harvest in terms of a mathematical lesson and break it down and be able to eat it,” environmental science teacher Catkin Flowers said.

Everything grown on the rooftop ends up in the dining hall, especially the salad bar. It’s part of the EcoSPACES program, which was created at the school and is paying off big-time.

“My favorite foods to eat are apples, pears, banana and kiwi,” second grader Tiana Evans said.

“We had cake that was chocolate but it had beets in it, but it actually tasted pretty good,” eighth grader Ajewell Wright said.

“You might not know how it tastes and it might taste good to you once you taste it,” first grader Lacey Greene added.

The students grow even more veggies in their indoor aero garden. Thanks to eighth grader Tyler Scott, Hsu got her first taste of Early Mizuna, right from the garden.

“You can taste the difference between the processed and the fresh,” Scott said.

The students also set the tables for lunch and serve each other.

The lessons on healthy eating aren’t just for the students. The school holds workshops for the whole family as well — in the teaching kitchen. The one Hsu attended was about the magic of the family meal and how to make it quickly.

“These workshops are great for me because I’m a single parent and I work full time and I look forward to learning about new, healthy meals that are quick and easy,” Quianda Dyer said.

Frank Mentesana, who is the director of EcoSPACES, said while everyone’s busy you can start changing things slowly. Attempt to have a family meal at least once a week, even if it’s breakfast on the weekend. He advised to find the recipes that will save time — from making large soups that will last through the week to tricks that teach how to cut more than a dozen tomatoes all at once.

Philip’s Academy is a public school and the program is supported through grants and donations. The hope is to expand the program to other schools, Hsu reported.

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