Minter Creek Elementary School’s garden teaches kids healthy eating habits


Scott Turner, KP News

Nique Reichl, 10, tends to water detail as she, fellow students and organizer Becky Maffei pull weeds before a recent lunch period at Minter Creek Elementary School. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

Students at Minter Creek Elementary School learned more than just the proverbial three Rs this year. They also planted a garden.

The idea grew out of the school’s 5210 program sponsored by the Tom Taylor Family YMCA.

According to school counselor Becky Maffei, the 5210 program teaches kids about healthy living, encouraging them to eat five servings of fresh fruit and veggies every day, do some physical activity and limit their “screen time” to two hours daily.

“About 20 kids participated in the 5210 program and about 10 of them continued in the gardening project,” Maffei said.

She credited substitute teacher Tom Mishko with coming up with the garden idea. “He has his own garden and he wanted to get one started at the school, so he volunteered to build it for us.”

Mishko constructed a couple of 4-foot by 8-foot beds that were filled with compost donated by Sandra Green of Green Hills Farm in Gig Harbor.

PenLight contributed wood chips to mulch the paths between the beds and the school PTA gave money to buy seeds, Maffei said.

“The kids decided what they wanted to plant and worked on the garden during recess time,” Maffei said.

Nine-year-old Rachael Kennedy was one of the garden helpers.

“In the 5210 program we learned about healthy food,” she said. “We learned about where food comes from and that kind of shifted into making our own garden.

“I was excited to learn about that part because it sounded like fun. We have a garden at home, too. You can learn a lot more about the environment and what you eat,” she said.

For 10-year-old Rylee Brown, it was all about being healthier and eating locally grown food.

“I learned that a normal hamburger travels like 5,000 miles just to get to your mouth,” Brown said. “The meat goes from the butcher to the processing plant and then it goes in a truck for a long time. The milk gets turned into cheese and finally gets to the store, and the lettuce had to grow a long ways away and even the bun has to be processed and driven in a truck a long way to get here. Everything comes from lots of different areas to get to my mouth.

“We wanted to do something healthier for ourselves so we started a garden and we’re going to eat stuff right from it. We have lettuce and tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins and watermelon and good stuff like that. We’re making ourselves healthier by doing this and we have a chance to explain it to the other kids, too.”

According to Kristin Kucklick, the health educator in charge of the 5210 program at the Y, “the goal is to teach the kids healthy habits now, so they’ll be able to use that when they get into middle school and high school and beyond.”

“It’s one of the really cool things we’re doing at Minter Creek,” added Maffei with a smile. “We’re teaching our kids how to be happier and healthier people –– not just spelling and math.”

For information or to contribute to the school’s garden project, contact Maffei at