Healthy Habits grants to support expansion of 3 school gardens, addition of sensory room at another school

Cordley Elementary School kindergarten students plant seeds after ground is broken on a school garden, Friday, March 11, 2016, in this Journal-World file photo.

Four Lawrence elementary schools have received $2,000 grants to promote healthy habits, funds that will help expand three school gardens and add a sensory activity room to another school.

The four Lawrence schools to receive the grants — Cordley, Woodlawn, Langston Hughes and Sunflower — are among 109 schools across the state to receive a Healthy Habits for Life grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Foundation, according to a news release from the foundation. Close to $200,000 in grants were awarded this year.

Pantaleon Florez III, the district’s Farm2School and experiential learning facilitator, said that Cordley, Woodlawn, and Langston Hughes were awarded grants for their Farm2School garden programs. Each school will receive $2,000, which Florez said will support garden infrastructure, perennial blackberry production, more raised beds, compost bins, soil, season extension equipment, and weed management tools.

Florez provided multiple educational components and activities the grants will help support. He said students will learn about passive weed management systems through solarization; will map their garden’s 100-foot no spray zones with county geographic information system technology; extend their growing season with low tunnels; and construct and utilize compost bins and raised beds.

“Each school applied with the intention of supporting the Kansas State Board of Education’s goal of “enhanc[ing] student wellness by integrating supports and services” through gardening,” Florez said via email.

He added the schools are also looking to meet building goals through gardening by engaging students in ways that meet their emotional and physical needs.

Sunflower Elementary will use the grant to help support a sensory space. A sensory space has activities that are designed to provide students with special needs specific sensory inputs to help calm or focus them and/or give them a break from the regular classroom.

Sunflower Principal Melissa Blevins said the Return to Learn sensory space will give students a place to go “when they need to reset.” Blevins said students will identify what “zone” they are in and select up to three sensory activities aligned with each zone. She said the space will be planned with input from various professionals.

“We are planning with intentionality how this space will be used through a collaboration with our special education team, behavior interventionist, occupational therapist (OT), an OT graduate student, and a parent, who is a KU architecture student,” Blevins said via email.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.