Tubman and Bancroft, a Relationship with the First Lady Continues to Blossom 

May 7, 2012: Ward 1 schools make annual trip to the White House to plant seeds in Obamas’ garden


garden-whitehouse
Fourth-grade students in Devon Bartlett gardening class at Bancroft Elementary School got a chance this year to visit the White House to help first lady Michelle Obama plant seeds in the White House garden. The school uses the visit to talk about gardening and proper nutrition
Photo by Fred Lewis
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Fourth-grader Juliana Franco, 9, waters plants in Bancroft Elementary School’s starter garden. Fourth-grade students in Devon Bartlett gardening class at Bancroft Elementary School got a chance this year to visit the White House to help first lady Michelle Obama plant seeds in the White House garden. Students at Tubman Elementary School have a similar relationship with the first lady.
Photo by Fred Lewis
garden-whitehouse2
Fourth-grade students in Devon Bartlett gardening class at Bancroft Elementary School water plants in the school’s starter garden. Bancroft students got a chance this year to visit the White House to help first lady Michelle Obama plant seeds in the White House garden. Students at Tubman Elementary School have a similar relationship with the first lady.
Photo by Fred Lewis

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Hey, Michelle Obama, how does your garden grow?

With the help of Tubman and Bancroft elementary students, of course!

The two DCPS schools have cultivated a healthy relationship with the first lady over the years and the connection continues to blossom with annual visits to the White House garden during spring planting and fall harvesting.

On March 26, students from the two Ward 1 schools made another visit to the White House to meet the first lady and White House chefs and plant seeds in the White House garden.

“I’m so excited to meet the first lady – I feel like I’m famous,” said Tubman fifth-grader Lesly Benavides, 10, just hours before the visit.

“I thought it was a joke. I was literally looking around for a camera,” said Tubman fifth-grader Tamia Graves, 10, who couldn’t believe she was chosen to meet the first lady. “I’m just a normal person so I thought someone else would get to go.”

Tubman Principal Harry Hughes said the first lady makes students – even humble ones like Graves – feel at home at the White House.

“She reminds you of a mom involved in the lives of her children,” Hughes said. “Her interactions with children are very authentic. That’s why children love to meet her.”

Tubman has visited the White House six times since President Barack Obama took office in 2008. Students from Tubman have participated in a variety of photo shoots at the White House and regularly help out in the garden.

The relationship formed because of the success of Tubman’s school garden and it continues to flourish through the first lady’s Let’s Move! campaign, Hughes said.

“We’re very progressive in showing students how important proper nutrition is to their lives,” Hughes said, noting that President Obama visited Tubman in December 2010 to sign the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The law improves the quality of school breakfasts, lunches and other foods sold in schools, and it strengthens nutrition programs that serve young children, including WIC and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

“I do see kids eating more vegetables and they’re less hesitant about trying new foods,” he said. “And I see kids taking an interest in the school garden.”

At Bancroft Elementary School, students take part gardening program during the school day that reinforces what they do with the first lady at the White House.

“Our children really get exposed to healthier options through our gardening program,” said Principal Zakiya Reid. “We use gardening as an entry point to nutrition.”

Fourth-grader Juliana Franco, 9, said meeting first lady Obama was “like a dream” – and so was the White House garden.

“It was so big and awesome,” she said after the March 26 visit. “It has about 10 pods to plant the flowers and everything!”

Bancroft has had a school garden for about 12 years. Iris Rothman, who lives in the neighborhood and loves gardening, got the school garden started. During a playground renovation, the garden was removed and later restored. Students, with the help of gardening teacher Devon Bartlett, have been busy starting seedlings for the garden.       

“Going to the White House is an incredible experience for kids. It gives them a sense of power, and it makes them feel like they’re contributing to an important message,” said Bartlett. “I think it’s great that Michelle Obama goes back to the same schools. It is part of these schools’ identity – not just a photo op but really meaningful.”

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