Southside students harvest the garden

Kindergarten students at Southside Elementary help to harvest the garden at their school. The children picked enough cherry tomatoes to supply the chef salads with toamtoes for students in K-8.


Monroe County Schools on the Go Releases Healthy Living Poll

Monroe County Schools on the Go today released findings of a public opinion poll gauging attitudes toward healthy living and prevention in Monroe County. The purpose of the poll is to evaluate public support for the efforts of the three school district coalition of Monroe County Schools on the Go to promote healthier places to live, work and play. The survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies.

“An extensive public opinion poll found that people in Monroe County overwhelmingly agree that tobacco use and childhood obesity are problems in our state,” said Autumn Grooms, project coordinator. “This poll also found a lot of agreement on the actions Wisconsin should take to help improve health where we live, work and play.”

The poll found that Monroe County’s residents agree that youth tobacco use and childhood obesity are serious problems.

• 91 percent of Monroe County voters surveyed think childhood obesity is a serious problem in Wisconsin (36% said it was very serious)
• 71 percent of respondents in Monroe County said they are concerned about youth tobacco use in Wisconsin (35% said they are “very concerned”)

Monroe County Schools on the Go is working to strengthen farm to school efforts in the Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts. During the first year of Transform Wisconsin funding, the coalition started school gardens and began looking at best practices for farm to school in Monroe County. Students were introduced to fresh local produce through a chef visit and continued learning about locally grown fruits and vegetables through the school gardens and take-home seed kits. Community education was provided through local speakers and a variety of education events.

In September, the garden at Southside Elementary School in Sparta supplied cherry tomatoes and tomatoes for chef salads and salad bars throughout the district K-12. Tomah’s garden at Lemonweir Elementary supplied the school lunch line with 10 pounds of kale, 9 pounds of green peppers and 34 pounds of Roma and cherry tomatoes in September. Fresh salsa was made from the garden at the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District and served to elementary students, and tomatoes and peppers have been served on the salad bars.

For more information on Monroe County Schools on the Go, contact Project Coordinator Autumn Grooms at (608) 269-3151 or email

Funded by the CDC’s Community Transformation Grant initiative, Transform Wisconsin is working to make healthy living easier and more affordable where people live, work, learn, and play. The long-term goal of Transform Wisconsin is to reduce chronic diseases in Wisconsin, which account for 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care. Twenty-five counties around the state were awarded 30 Transform Wisconsin grants. For more information, visit:

Students working in Lemonweir School Garden

Students working in Lemonweir School Garden

Tomah Area School District students are tending to the garden at Lemonweir Elementary through a summer school class.

They’ve adopted plants in the garden that they measure and track the growth of and work together to harvest and weed.

Eight-year-old Natalie Renaud has learned a lot about gardening from her father and grandmother but said the class and school garden have allowed her to further hone her skills.

“It’s fun,” said Renaud, who will be in thrid grade this fall. “I like to work outside.”

Among her favorite activities are picking weeds and harvesting produce.

Makayla Riffle, 7, prefers picking vegetables, but says “it’s really all fun.” She will be in second grade this fall.

The week of July 1, students harvested spinach and a jalepeno pepper. They also put cages around tomato plants.

Garden planted at Lemonweir Elementary

Students plant the school garden May 28 at Lemonweir Elementary in Tomah. Among the plants are tomatoes, peppers and a variety of herbs. Image ImageImageImageImage


Garden beds installed at N-O-W

ImageVolunteers installed the garden beds at the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District June 3 and 4. More than 20 people helped. They look great, and we can’t wait to see the produce produced.

The power of physical activity

A guest editorial by State Superintendent Tony Evers
The health status of American youth is receiving a significant amount of attention. More of our kids are overweight and obese than ever before, in part because of a significant decline in physical activity levels.
Physical education became a curricular course in Wisconsin in 1923 as a result of high military draft rejection rates in World War I. Since that time, we’ve moved beyond treating physical education as playtime or training for team sports. Our physical education teachers are professional educators who plan a comprehensive physical education curriculum founded on lifetime fitness. From kindergarten through high school students learn about and play various team and individual sports, are exposed to a wide range of movement, experience age-appropriate assessment, and learn about the connections between good health and physical activity. But physical education class isn’t quite enough exercise. Our kids need to be active outside of school and with their families. In fact, exercises learned in school can be shared at home and become a fun source of family time.
The Department of Public Instruction has been involved in the Active Schools Project with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in an effort to increase physical activity for our kids. In the 2010-11 school year, 36 schools in 21 districts piloted active schools strategies to provide students with opportunities to engage in 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
This study generated four strategies that show the most promise for changing the school environment to include more physical activity. The CORE 4 strategies include — increasing active and quality physical education minutes, implementing an organized recess program for elementary and middle school students, increasing opportunities for recreation before and after school, and implementing limited-space energy breaks in the classroom. These CORE 4 strategies are being implemented in 50 Wisconsin schools over the next three years to build a research base for the Active Schools Project.
Just what is an energy break? It’s a few minutes, anywhere from five to 15, that provide students with the opportunity to get out of their chairs. The best energy breaks are active learning opportunities that reinforce lessons while moving. Some of the suggested activities encourage listening and observational skills or following directions, others integrate academic concepts with movement. Just the act of standing up speeds information processing and increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Teachers involved with Wisconsin’s Active Schools pilot reported improved student focus and engagement after participating in classroom physical activity breaks.
Researchers tell us that exercise impacts mood, cements memory, and enhances connections between neurons in the brain. More than 200 research studies support the premise that healthy kids are better prepared to learn. There’s power in physical activity. Let’s encourage our students to lead an active healthy lifestyle through physical education and activities in the classroom and outside of school. It will help them learn.

Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton Elementary samples kale

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Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton Elementary students tasted kale May 22 in their classrooms. The second graders took the vegetable around to all the classes and gave the presentation “Kale Tastes Great and Is Good For You.”

Southside Elementary students learn about garden

Monroe County Schools on the Go Project Coordinator Autumn Grooms and Sparta Area School District Nutrition Services Supervisor Cindy Thesing stopped at Southside Elementary May 10 to talk with students about the school garden, Growums and Harvest of the Month. Students were very excited about the upcoming gardening season and were getting ready to start the school garden at their school.

Monroe County Schools on the Go to host From Ground to School with farmer Josh Engel


Monroe County Schools on the Go will host Local Produce: From Ground to School with farmer Josh Engel, co-owner of Driftless Organics in the three coalition districts in April.

Engel will speak about the 40-acre diversified vegetable farm and will cover their production practices from seed to market including information regarding their on-farm food safety practices, delivery systems and how they decide what to grow for which markets. He will conclude with some specific examples of their involvement in farm to school and talk about potential opportunities for the future.

Dates and times for events planned in the Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts are:

Wednesday, April 3: 6:30 p.m., Brookwood High School library, 28861 Hwy. 131, Ontario

Wednesday, April 10: 6 p.m., Meadowview Schools cafetorium, 1225 N. Water St., Sparta

Wednesday, April 24: 6 p.m., Tomah High School cafeteria, 901 Lincoln Ave., Tomah

“Monroe County Schools on the Go is building a coalition of farmers, parents and community members who want to develop a strong farm to school effort in the Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts. With the help of a Transform Wisconsin Food Systems Impact Grant, the group is working to improve nutrition practices and increase fruit and vegetable consumption for Monroe County children. This coalition is working to strengthen the local food system and increase the availability of healthy and affordable food in our communities,” Project Coordinator Autumn Grooms said.