HHCA garden concept to teach students

Hilton Head Christian Academy chef Brooks Rhinehart and school nurse Wendy Cummings share a philosophy for wellness.

Most days Cummings can be found applying Band-Aids, taking temperatures and listening to hilarious anecdotes of students who wander into her office to “get well.” Rhinehart is usually busy in the school kitchen, crafting healthy, culinary delights.

Behind the scenes, however, these two have been cooking up some big plans for the school. An extraordinary garden concept was born from their desire to see the lunch and wellness programs evolve into something that places an emphasis on health in every aspect of learning.

Hilton Head Christian Academy partnered with Experience Green to receive a $10,000 grant from the Women in Philanthropy Endowment Fund through Community Foundation of the Lowcountry’s  2015 theme, “Protecting Our Lowcountry Environment.”

The Whole Kids Foundation approved a $2,000 grant for HHCA that will also be used to fund the long-term project.

The five-phase garden project titled, “Edible Education For Sustainability,” also known as Dig It, will be integrated into the HHCA’s K-12 curriculum. The plans include a large greenhouse, berry maze, vertical hydroponics, composting bins, native pollinators and a living wall.

The mission is to educate faculty and students about healthy living through curriculum and daily interactions with program director Wendy Cummings. HHCA broke ground on Oct. 16 with a ceremonial “Turning of The Soil” by students. Local artist Pierce Glitner hand-painted a sign now visible at the future garden’s site.

“We are going to harvest it, clean it and bring it in the kitchen and use it,” Rhinehart said.

Seed to shore, from Clemson is another program the duo has included in their long term plan. Cummings has brought “Boks" to the school, a cross-fit program from Reeboks, developed to help combat obesity and promote overall fitness with the nation’s kids.

There are also plans for class field trips to Whole Foods Hilton Head and to bring their volunteers in to assist with the garden. HHCA hopes Dig It will be a model for curriculum in SC schools while impacting the entire community. For more information, email wendycummings@hhca.org