School Garden News – Alabama

Lessons from the garden: Students learn about science and giving
By Peggy Ussery

When asked if they’ve ever eaten collard or turnip greens, the group of fifth-graders raised their hands. Some event kept their hands up when asked if they liked them.

Only a few students in Shiela Armstrong’s class at Rehobeth Elementary School had not sampled the green vegetables typically served up in the South boiled soft with a ham hock for flavor. But Armstrong intended to rectify that within the next day.

The students have been tending a vegetable garden since October, nursing a collection of greens and herbs from seeds, watering them daily and watching them grow in compost just outside their classroom door. Along the way, they’ve learned about the science behind plants, lessons in math and have even written environmentally-inspired poetry. Photosynthesis, carbohydrates, the benefits of nitrogen in rain water — they’ve studied it all.

Now that the time has come to harvest their winter vegetables, they’ll learn another lesson — how to help those in need. The greens will be donated to a local soup kitchen.

Students said they’ve enjoyed the experience.

“It’s really worthwhile watching things grow,” 10-year-old Ryann Firestine said. “It’s better than going to the store and buying it. It’s more natural.”

Along with the turnip and collard greens, the students planted parsley, cilantro and basil. Unfortunately, colder temperatures recently killed the basil.

The garden taught the students responsibility and patience. Some students plan on planting vegetable gardens at home or already have with their parents. And they’ve gained a new appreciation for where their food comes from in the first place.

“I see how much care and patience that you have to have to take care of it,” said Ashley Fleissner, 10.

Armstrong plans to expand the garden program with spring vegetables. She came up with the idea for the garden during the summer. She was contemplating new, fun ways to reach students and hold their interest. Gardening and cooking were skills she learned as a child from grandparents.

“With all the cool things they have at home to do, school gets boring and learning gets boring,” Armstrong said.

But what Armstrong hopes the students will value most is the impact they can have on the lives of others by donating the vegetables for those in need.

“The main purpose was giving back to the community,” Armstrong said. “Being compassionate and thinking about others. Being occupied with the right kinds of things.”

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