Hollin Meadows Outdoor Education Program: Growing a Healthier Generation one Student at a Time

Each year during the first week of April, the American Public Health Association (APHA) brings together community members, educators, policy makers, and practitioners for National Public Health Week. For the last several years, this annual observance has focused on a single goal: creating the healthiest nation in a generation.

This is an aspirational goal that challenges us to make personal commitments to contribute to a larger public good. One of the key tenants identified by the APHA in pursuit of this goal is to give everyone a choice of safe, healthy food - especially young children. Lifelong eating behaviors are established in childhood and they are directly impacted by a child’s access to healthy and nutrient dense foods. The link between nutrition and a child’s overall health and wellbeing is profound, and the benefits of healthy dietary habits extend to positive changes in sleep quality, behavioral patterns, academic performance, social interactions, and problem solving.

The Hollin Meadows Partnership for Outdoor Education is proud to partner with the APHA in creating the healthiest nation in a generation. Through our support of the Hollin Meadows school community and outdoor education program, we look forward to growing a generation of students that will benefit from access to fresh fruits and vegetables and healthier school meals. In addition to focusing on the nutritional aspects of health, Hollin Meadows students also benefit from their time spent outdoors - enjoying free play during recess, helping in their school garden, and engaging in outdoor experiential learning activities that reinforce classroom lessons. Outdoor education has a positive effect on health and nutrition, as research suggests that students who participate in garden programs are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. In fact, some studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes in a garden can increase a child’s willingness to try new foods.

In 2019, Hollin Meadows has made great strides towards meeting the APHA’s challenge. In January, the school introduced a cafeteria salad bar, incorporating new healthy options into students’ lunches and giving them the opportunity to make decisions about what to include on their plate. Throughout the winter and early spring, Jess Buchanan, the outdoor education coordinator, worked with the students to grow and nurture seedlings that will soon populate the school’s garden. Along with the Hollin Meadows Partnership, she has also collaborated with community organizations and private sector partners to leverage resources and secure infrastructure funding. Construction of 20 raised beds in the learning production garden was recently completed along with a drip irrigation system. This system may also one day serve an on-site farm, which is currently being discussed as a viable option to supplement the school lunch program and support the local school community.

Are you ready to commit to creating the healthiest nation in a generation? Join Generation Public Health by signing the APHA pledge today. To learn more about the exciting things happening at Hollin Meadows, how you can get involved, and the strides we are taking to grow a healthier, brighter future for our students visit the Hollin Meadows Partnership for Outdoor Education website regularly and follow us on social media.