“We Grow Stars” Program Spends Summer Exploring Nutrition and Fitness
This summer, 30 youth in grades third through fifth took part in the “We Grow Stars” Program offered by Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center (MASCEC).
Run as an after-school program during the school year and as an extended activities program during the summer, We Grow Stars helps students build solid foundations by making healthy food choices, participating in physical activity, excelling academically and exploring career paths. The program is funded by the Salem Health and Wellness Foundation.
“The children showed enthusiasm and interest in every aspect of the program, whether it was nutritional, physical activity or career exploration,” said Lani Allen-Davis, youth specialist for MASCEC. “They really enjoyed our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) assignments — particularly creating an aquaponics system and building structures with the jelly bean and toothpicks.”
To explore the importance of nutrition, this summer, students visited the Salem City Community Garden for a first-hand look at the journey food takes from farm to table. Garden Co-Founder Britney Lillya explained to the children how the garden grew from planting seeds, watering daily and harvesting crops.
Students also took a trip to an authentic Salem County farm where Upper Pittsgrove Township Farmer David Zeck gave the children a tour of his corn farm.
Then, participants worked in groups to build a hydroponic garden that demonstrated the life cycle of fruits and vegetables. They learned about basic nutrition by exploring different fruits and vegetables and hopefully encouraging them to eat more for better health.
The students put their nutritional lessons to practice as they were provided a free breakfast, snack and lunch courtesy of the Food Bank of South Jersey USDA summer feeding program.
Fueled with the proper nutrition, the students enjoyed daily physical activity utilizing the nationally recognized CATCH program. This evidence-based initiative provides children with the information they need to make better food and exercise choices in a fun and engaging manner. The program also includes information for parents to make sure the lessons learned through We Grow Stars transfer to the home setting.
In addition to the nutritional and physical aspects of the program, “We Grow Stars” also helped keep young minds active in the summer with an on-line educational system focusing on reading.
The interactive and exciting We Grow Stars program continues during the school year at the Salem Middle School from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is open to all third- through fifth-grade students. For more information on the program, visit the website at www.wegrowpeople.org or call 856-514-2200, Ext. 108.