On April 1, volunteers from the American Heart Association and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield facilitated a school-wide Plant Day at City Springs Elementary/Middle School to install a new American Heart Association Teaching Garden. The teaching garden, which was funded by CareFirst, consists of child-friendly planter beds constructed by hand, soil, seedlings and standard gardening supplies.
Preparations for Plant Day began in the fall, after CareFirst provided funding for the project. City Springs completed a comprehensive survey to assure the school's commitment to the program and established a Teaching Garden Committee to oversee the program. The committee, led by City Springs staff member Mark Tatum, received special training from the American Heart Association to help guide their responsibilities and set out to plan the big day.
The Big Day
Plant Day began with welcoming remarks from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, CareFirst Senior Vice President Maria Tildon, American Heart Association Executive Director Yvette Mingo and City Springs Principal Rhonda Richetta. Throughout the day every class at City Springs had the opportunity to participate in building the garden. Students also enjoyed Zumba and other health-focused activities.
Mr. Tatum will use the American Heart Association's Teaching Garden Curriculum to engage students in fun, educational, hands-on investigations of nutritious fruits and vegetables in and out of the garden. The American Heart Association also provided City Springs with a Teaching Garden Tool Kit, containing a school garden manual, lesson plans, school activation ideas, and parent and community resources.
With oversight from American Heart Association staff, the Teaching Gardens program will also provide volunteer opportunities for the community.
Plant Day is the result of a larger partnership CareFirst has developed with City Springs and the Baltimore Curriculum Project. Fostered by Business Volunteers Maryland and led by CareFirst's Maria Tildon, CareFirst used existing relationships with area nonprofits to develop and foster programs that help City Springs meet its students' health and wellness needs.
The CareFirst Partnership Program also includes CareFirst employee mentorships with City Spring students through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chesapeake's "Bigs in Schools." CareFirst employees serve as mentors, spending an hour a week eating lunch, talking, and playing games with their "Little," or mentee.
On April 25, the Baltimore Curriculum Project and Business Volunteers will honor CareFirst employee Carolyn Dorsey with a BCP Outstanding Business Volunteer Award for her service as a "Bigs in Schools" mentor and as a member of Business Volunteer's INSPIRE attendance team at City Springs.
In the coming months, CareFirst and City Springs plan to expand their Partnership Program to include Girls on the Run of Greater Chesapeake, a nonprofit independent council that inspires girls in third through eighth grades to gain confidence and improve their health by training for a 5-kilometer run.
We would like to thank CareFirst, the American Heart Association, Business Volunteers and the following individuals for helping to make this wonderful Teaching Garden a reality:
- Tom Caron, Manager, Business Engagement, Business Volunteers Maryland
- Karen Dixon, Associate Vice-President, CareFirst
- Bonnie Downing, Manager, Community Affairs, CareFirst
- Julie Wagner, Vice President, Community Affairs, CareFirst
- Kimberly Mays, Senior Director, Community and Multicultural Health, American Heart Association
- Yvette Mingo, Executive Director, American Heart Association
- Rhonda Richetta, Principal, City Springs Elementary/Middle School
- Maria Tildon, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Community Affairs, CareFirst
Special thanks to the Teaching Garden Committee:
- Mark Tatum, Staff Member, City Springs EMS
- Bill Buckless, Teacher, City Springs EMS
- Simone Garrison, Child First Community School Coordinator, City Springs EMS
- Dorothy Glewwe, Teacher, City Springs EMS
- Bess Hanley, Teacher, City Springs EMS
- Alyssa Schoenleber, Teacher, City Springs EMS
- Nick West, Teacher, City Springs EMS