Visit Offers Elementary Lessons on Nutrition and Exercise

Six fourth graders from P.S. 89 counted down from 25 in the oval-shaped center of the Pierce Avenue Community Garden behind Einstein and Weiler Hospital. They were doing jumping jacks as a warm-up for a Tae Bo lesson led by first-year medical student Michele Buonora and sixth-year M.D.-Ph.D. student Amanda Tow.

The students were learning about exercise as part of the BODY club’s second annual garden field trip, scheduled for three dates in May.

BODY stands for Bronx Obesity Diabetes and You. The club’s members aim to combat high rates of obesity and diabetes in the Bronx through educational offerings and by reducing barriers to fresh food through access to its community garden.

A Special Neighborhood Relationship

Throughout the year, BODY members visit P.S. 89 to deliver lessons about nutrition and exercise. The garden field trip, offered to all fourth graders at the school, builds upon what students have already learned.

“Our goal in having the fourth graders visit the garden is to show them where their food comes from and to make them aware of the garden as a place they can access for free vegetables,” said Julie Nadel, a fourth-year Ph.D. student and garden co-chair (Ms. Buonora and fourth-year M.D.-Ph.D. student Anthony Bowen also co-chair the garden).

Interactive and Healthful Lessons

During the morning session of each of the class visits, between 30 and 50 students were divided into teams named after produce grown in the garden: Strawberry, Pea, Tomato, Eggplant and Carrot. The teams circulated through five stations set up around the garden, each manned by one to three medical, graduate or M.D.-Ph.D. student volunteers. In all 33 Einstein students gave their time during the three days of visits.

Each of the stations was designed to be interactive and offer lessons on gardening, good nutrition, exercise or science. These included:

  • planting seedlings and learning about gardening and plant life cycles;
  • repurposing and decorating used food containers into self-watering planters;
  • discussing how to take care of their own plants so that they could grow fresh produce at home;
  • learning Tae Bo moves (which many of them continued to practice throughout the day) while also gaining insights into the importance of regular exercise and how it can be fun;
  • scavenging for nutritious snacks hidden in the garden while also learning how to read and compare nutrition labels; and
  • learning about how genetic information is carried by DNA and how to extract it from strawberries.

As the students scampered between stations, one of their teachers observed, “This is great for them. They see how where their food comes from and learn how they can do things that lead to healthier choices.”

An Invitation for Future Visits

At the end of the day, Ms. Nadel invited the students to bring their families to the garden to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

Updates regarding the growth of the plants, days and hours when the garden is open and when free produce is distributed may be accessed via the garden blog or viewed on Instagram at @BODYCommunityGarden.  For more information or questions, please contact the group through

A youngster learns about the DNA of strawberries
A youngster learns about the DNA of strawberries
Students get a kick out of doing Tae Bo
Students get a kick out of doing Tae Bo
Working the earth to help with planting seedlings
Working the earth to help with planting seedlings

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