Facing the first day of Green Heart Summer Camp, I was filled with anxiety and excitement. As a recent College of Charleston graduate, my Public Health Degree should have prepared me well for the challenge, however Green Heart is a garden camp, and in reality, nothing from my courses pertained to gardening tips. Excited about the possibility of learning how to keep a basil plant alive I was ready to embark on a new adventure. Green Heart was recommended to me as an internship site by one of the College of Charleston Professors, Dr. Olivia Thompson, who is very active with the program. Although I plan to study health ethics in graduate school, Green Heart suited my interest in nutrition and food as well as environmental ethics. I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with kids, especially since I had spent my spring semester volunteering with a driving service for the elderly and visually impaired. Green Heart works closely with local restaurants such as Taco Boy and The Park Cafe to name a few by providing fresh produce and herbs from the garden, in addition to working in conjunction with local farmers. As an employee of The Ordinary, a King Street restaurant specializing in local oysters and fish, I was looking forward to exploring some of the local farms, who distribute to us and other neighboring restaurants. Working at The Ordinary has helped me appreciate the amazing local offerings around Charleston, and I am excited to be able to share similar beliefs with an organization like Green Heart, while exposing children to the great options around them.
Green Heart’s summer program has been a really great experience thus far. The Mitchell Elementary students enrolled are a fun group of kids who are enthusiastic about plants and food. Through both their time in the garden during the school year and their experience in cooking and nutrition classes, the students have expanded their knowledge base and been provided with extensive resources for learning. I was impressed as students were able to show me which plants needed what, as well as their ability to identify different insects and other possible threats to the garden. In the classroom, students were readily able to describe food groups and define terms such as organic and “whole foods”. The nutritional knowledge these students possess is above that of many adults. Public health courses have taught me that educating our youth is essential in the effort to better the health of our country and I find Green Heart to be a perfect illustration of this concept. There is often times a gap between what is taught in school and what is learned at home, and Green Heart is able to fill this void by providing helpful nutrition information during both the school year and summer months.
Over the past few weeks Green Heart Summer Camp has already influenced me in many ways and created what will be great memories of my summer internship. One major highlight is the awesome fields trips- from Riverdogs Games, to tours of Whole Foods and Jeremiah Goat & Dairy Farm, each one is sure to be a blast (and make you want to invest in a pet goat!). These trips are a great way to introduced students to all the local resources they have around them, many of which people are unaware of.
My favorite part of my Green Heart Project internship so far has been the campers. What amazes me most is how willing and eager they are to try new things. Whether it’s picking up chickens, watering plants, or harvesting ground cherries, there is always a hand readily available to tackle the job. Many children would not be willing to try lychee fruit or raw goats milk, but this is never a problem for the taste buds of Green Heart campers. After being surrounded by fellow college students the past four years, it has been refreshing to work with eager young minds. With thanks to generous donors and sponsors, Green Heart campers are afforded the opportunity to take part in many tremendous opportunities as well as receive an education to help them make healthy and sustainable decisions to carry them not only throughout the summer but hopefully into their adult lives.