Sarah McKenzie's third-grade class has already successfully raised some good-looking, green broccoli, so the students know a little about gardening. That made them all the more receptive to a recent visit by internist and naturopathic physician Dr. Maria Scunziano-Singh when she came to Pine Grove Elementary School.
Scunziano-Singh was armed with posters, photos and information about what to eat to be healthy. The 15 students listened to her tell them, "Health comes from proper eating, rest, exercise and liquids." She emphasized that good-for-you liquids do not include sodas.
She focused on plants, telling the children that the best sources of nutrients are the dark or brightly colored ones.
"Those vegetables have pigments in them," she said.
Really good ones include collards, brussels sprouts, turnip greens, mustard greens and peppers.
There was an exclamation from the children at the mention of one of those.
"Ewwww," one boy said. "I hate brussels sprouts!"
Cooked correctly, the doctor assured him, they are delicious.
Pumpkins also are very good, brightly colored vegetables, prompting another student to ask, "Is pumpkin pie considered a vegetable?"
Hmm, Scunziano-Singh said, it's more of sweet, because of all the sugar.
She continued by describing what organic and non-genetically modified fruits and vegetables are. She encouraged the growing of food with natural fertilizers and pest controls.
She soon opened the floor for questions.
"What's the worst vegetable you need?"
"There really isn't a worst (one)."
"How many servings of vegetables should you have daily?"
"Anywhere from eight to 12 servings."
"What is the best vegetable that will give you energy?"
"Something like nuts," she said, not suggesting a vegetable, but another kind of plant food.
"Do carrots help you see better?"
Carrots contain beta-carotene, which helps form Vitamin A that is important for the eyes, the doctor said.
McKenzie hoped the doctor's visit would encourage gardening and healthful eating. Scunziano-Singh and her husband, Dr. Pariksith Singh, the medical directors of Access Healthcare, have established the Auroveda Foundation to help promote optimal living and raise awareness of the powers of nature for wellness. Her visit and support of gardening is part of that goal.
As the class thanked her in unison, a couple of lone voices rang out with real appreciation.
"Thank you for teaching us this different stuff."
"It was very interesting."
Afterward, Rhiana Doherty, 8, said, "I learned (about) broccoli, pumpkins, mustard greens and all the vegetables that are healthy."
Horacio Chaves, 9, had an equally positive reaction.
"I learned about what kind of food that you can eat," he said.