Gardening and Overall Wellness Classroom provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of MS Foundation

In 2020, the Starkville Oktibbeha School District was awarded a $900,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Mississippi to support the District’s overarching goal to create school environments that emphasize healthy living. The grant has been used to implement the Wellness Incentive for Starkville Partnerships (WISP) project, a comprehensive school health and wellness program, as well as the state-of-the-art GrOW (Gardening and Overall Wellness) classroom at Partnership Middle School

The initiative is overseen by the SOSD Discovery Center and includes multiple school gardens and mobile kitchens allowing students opportunities to participate in meaningful, hands-on experiences, including planting, harvesting, cooking and tasting opportunities. The GrOW classroom introduces all sixth-graders to nutrition, gardening, wellness activities and healthy behaviors. Seventh-graders maintain their own classroom “garden pod” that is incorporated into academic subjects such as science, math and language arts. The initiative also includes plans for a greenhouse, school farmers’ market, family cooking nights and fitness classes.