This week, 50 students at the Maple Grove Elementary Healthy Eaters and Leaders (HEAL) Summer Camps got to try their hand gardening, raising money for the SPCA, cooking up a healthy storm and testing their knowledge against university students. The week of activities were organized by the West 1 Community School Team and their 11 staff members and four volunteers.
Designed for Grade 1 to 7 students, the camp integrates healthy eating routines into a daily schedule of outdoor and indoor games, garden tours, crafts and day trips. HEAL Camp Director Sarah Tracz says the experience of seeing where their food comes from is frequently a cure for even the most picky eaters.
"We'll have children who do a total 180 when it comes to their eating habits," she says. "Educating kids about local food and buying local in a friendly, cohesive and engaging way is a really important part of the camp experience."
The camps have been running for the past four years and are exceedingly popular. Each week-long camp has an average waitlist of over a dozen students. The Healthy Eaters and Leaders camp has been running from July 9 until August 24.
Albert Liang is going into Grade 3 at Shaughnessy Elementary this year and is one of Maple Grove's many eager summer campers. He says he loves the games at camp, but also likes cooking and exploring the camp garden. He says a highlight for him was making veggie tacos (jammed with cheese and sour cream), but admits cooking isn't always easy.
"I like making food even though sometimes I mess up - especially when I'm trying to crack eggs," says Liang. "I get the yolk in the bowl, but not always the white."
Liang says he enjoyed rooting around the school's garden (which is jammed right now with vegetables including tomatoes, kale, green beans, basil, bok choy and carrots) and discovering a super carrot, which looked like three carrots were growing out of one.
"I planted it the first week of camp and pulled it out of the earth the last week of camp," he says.
Tracz credits the support of the BC Dairy Association and Whole Foods for their support of the program.
For more information about the VSB's West 1 Community Schools Team and/or the Healthy Eaters and Leaders summer camp program, please contact Marisol Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org
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