From the Left, Camila Aguero, Kaeda Graham and Zoe Rhyne pick fresh carrots from the garden at Crescent Harbor Elementary School. The school held a grand opening for the garden and a new covered play structure on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Crescent Harbor celebrates new covered play structure and garden

Inclement weather won’t have to keep Crescent Harbor Elementary School students inside anymore. The school held a grand opening of its new covered play structure last week.

The structure was paid for with a $180,000 Healthy Kids-Healthy Schools Grant from the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Students had been spending an average of 15 to 20 days inside for recess each year, said Principal Kate Valenzuela.

“Thanks to the Healthy Kids Grant, our cubs will now be able to enjoy recess outside year round,” said Valenzuela at the event.

She said the school plans to install basketball hoops under the structure and paint activities on the ground such as hopscotch. Crescent Harbor was one of only three schools in the state to receive funding from this grant to build a covered play structure.

The event also celebrated the opening of the school’s garden, which was completed in March. The garden was paid for by the SNAP-ed grant, a federal grant managed by Island County Public Health and the Washington State University Island County Extension. The grant also pays for an educator to teach the students about nutrition and how to grow fruit and vegetables.

“Having kids in the garden is the best way to get them to try new foods,” said Laura Luginbill, healthy community director at Island County Public Health and a registered dietician.

Valenzuela said she delayed the opening of the garden so it would have produce growing in it. The kids excitedly pulled carrots from the ground and picked tomatoes during the event.

“The kids love the garden,” she said. Later adding, “They’re like kids in a candy store.”

Eating healthy was a major focus of the event, with fresh carrots and other vegetables being served to the students.

In addition to the grants the school received, the projects were completed with significant community support.

The Oak Harbor Educational Foundation provided over $4,000 for the garden tools and shed, the Island County Master Gardener Foundation donated $1,000 for garden socks and Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor donated $5,000 for the hoop house — a structure that covers some of the plants. Valenzuela also recognized the U.S. Navy SeaBees for constructing the hoop house and in-ground worm bin and Miles Sand & Gravel for installing the foundation for the hoop house.

“The point of today is to celebrate these two things (the structure and garden), but also to thank the community,” Valenzuela said.

Kellie Tormey, former Oak Harbor Public Schools Communication Officer, cuts the ribbon on Crescent Harbor’s garden Wednesday afternoon. Tormey was responsible for procuring the grants for the garden and the school’s new covered play structure, both which were unveiled at Wednesday’s event. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

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