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Chase Suter, 2, Jordan Johnson, 4, his brother Zachary, 5, and Caden Cimpoli, 3, give An Apple A Day owner and teacher Christina Miller a loving hug.
Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 18, 2013 4 years ago

Preschool instills healthy habits


Thirty-three-year-old Christina Miller sits on a mini-chair behind a mini-table at An Apple A Day Academy. The small day care and preschool is tucked away in a neighborhood one block south of Trader Joe’s. Photographs of the 26 children who attend the preschool hang on the bright-green wall behind her. The academy opened in January, but Miller has big plans for it. This preschool may look ordinary on its surface, but everything is done — or not done — with its environmental impact in mind.

“(The world) needs a new generation of fresh minds to conserve what is left of it, so I feel it is our job to give them the tools for a better planet,” says Miller.

Miller is starting with the children who attend her preschool. Currently, the preschool and Miller are in the process of obtaining a “green certification” from Healthy Green Schools, a company that helps schools create a healthier, non-toxic and environmentally friendly atmosphere. To receive the certification, the preschool must complete a checklist and the staff and teachers must go through training and continuing education.

Miller hopes to get the certification by December.

“We don’t have to do this, but choose to because it’s validation,” Miller says.

An Apple a Day has already incorporated a multitude of environmentally friendly practices in its day-to-day operations. The staff at the preschool reuses towels in place of paper products; children reuse utensils and plates as opposed to using disposable ones; and the staff uses all-natural cleaners that are EPA-certified and chemical-free. The walls are painted with no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) paints.

Children also use recycled material for their projects. For example, they use dried-out markers to make watercolor paints, water jugs to make an igloo fort and they use the caps of the water jugs to make mini-painted turtles.

“The simple things they actually enjoy more than the store bought items,” says Miller. “They just need to be given the tools to go outside and be able to play, and they love it.”

In addition to the school recycling and reusing as many items as it can, 80% of what infants and toddlers eat at An Apple a Day preschool is organic. Miller says she tries to purchase unprocessed foods whenever possible. Also, staff and children grow some of their own food throughout the year.

The preschool accepts children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. Staff members prepare healthy meals for the babies and the toddlers. For snacks, the preschoolers have a variety of healthy choices to choose from such as pears, apples or cheese. Miller says the children never complain about the food, and they are always at least willing to try it.

“We say to our parents, ‘look, your child ate lentils today,’ and they are shocked,” Miller says. “The younger they start eating healthy it just becomes a habit.”

Miller hopes to have a preschool large enough to accommodate 200 children within the next two years. Right now she is focused on building relationships with the families of the 26 infants and toddlers who attend An Apple A Day.

“We become friends with the parents,” Miller says. “It is a family, not an institution.”

Contact Yaryna Klimchak at [email protected]


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