A vast array of fruit and vegetables have been grown by children learning about health, nutrition, science and sustainability, as they took part in Project Greenhouse, an initiative from Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s Sahtak Awalan – Your Health First Campaign, designed to teach children where food comes from, and which type of food they should be eating to stay healthy to avoid diabetes and obesity as they grow older. 

Each year, 101 schools receive a greenhouse from Your Health First and they compete to see who has the best harvest. The winning school this year is Qatar Leadership Academy (QLA), a member of Qatar Foundation for education, science and community development (QF). QLA not only produced a bumper harvest, but also incorporated the greenhouses into a multitude of different lessons and community projects. Umm Salal Ali Model Independent School for Boys came second, and Omar Ibn El Khatab Educational Center came third.

Ali Jassim Al Kuwari, Head of the Adult Education Section at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, presented the trophy to QLA. He said that Project Greenhouse is a wonderful programme for so many reasons and it has proven to be a great success over the past five years. He said that it offers students the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities and learn lessons that are not always included in the mainstream curriculum.

By educating our young people about health and nutrition at a young age, we can help create a healthy future generation that is able to meet the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030.’

Brigadier General Ali Ahmad Al Kuwari, Director of QLA, said that having the greenhouses allowed the students to put theoretical lessons learned in the classroom into practice in the real world, giving cadets a ‘very real sense of achievement’. He added that the cadets also learned about the environment, sustainability and the importance of caring for the natural world.

The students have learned skills that they will take with them throughout their lives, and knowledge that one day they can pass on to their children.’

Fruit and vegetables grown by students at QLA include lettuce, parsley, tomatoes, chilis, eggplants and cilantro. They also introduced mango trees and okra and even built an irrigation system to make watering the plants much easier. The next stage, said Sunny Joseph, science and technical coordinator at the school, is for solar panels to be installed. Joseph said they hope to connect the panels to fans to extend the growing season through the summer.

The greenhouses, according to Joseph, also proved to be a valuable resource for advancing other subject areas. Students completed nine scientific investigations across the middle and high school classes using the greenhouse as base. Other schools have also shown interest in using their greenhouse for scientific experiments.

I would like to thank our students for inspiring the community to take an active role in meeting their dietary needs.’

Joseph said that QLA’s English department used the greenhouses as inspiration for reflective writing, while the humanities department was planning a farmers’ market for the community. There are also plans for an environmental study centre at Al Khor Park. The greenhouses, according to Joseph, opened up huge possibilities.

Students at the school are now planning a pizza party, using the next crop of organic vegetables as toppings. Grade 7A student Abdulaziz Al Jabari said he learned a lot, adding that he learned how to grow vegetables from seeds and how to take care of them. He said he will try to plant organic vegetables in his own garden. Fellow student Mohamed Al Essae said that growing vegetables in a greenhouse is not that hard afterall. Ahmad Al Zeyara, who is also in Grade 7,  said he will ask his friends and family to start a greenhouse at their homes.

Nesreen Al-Rifai, chief communications officer at WCM-Q, praised the children and teachers of all the participating schools for their hard work.

Since its inception Project Greenhouse has proven to be a huge success, not only because it encourages children to eat and enjoy fruit and vegetables, but also because there proved to be such a synergy with the schools’ curriculums.

In conclusion, she said that they hope all the students at all participating schools take the lessons they learned about healthy lifestyles with them throughout their lives.

We want the next generation to be strong and healthy so they can continue to lead Qatar to success.’

For more information about the Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s Sahtak Awalan – Your Health First Campaign, visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu.

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