A simple community project to revitalize a few garden beds at Courtney Elementary School has turned into a full-fledged garden which already has produced fresh food for the kids to enjoy.
“I like that we get to pick our food and that we get to come out here and water it every day,” said fifth-grade student Nick Holt.
Principal Jed Cockrell said there were a few raised beds on the school property and he met with some community volunteers to see about replanting some things in them as a beautification project and a hands-on learning experience for the students. Now, the school not only has raised beds with flowers, herbs and vegetables, but the former tennis court area has been transformed into a garden with lettuce, swiss chard, tomatoes, strawberries, beans and more.
Freddie Robinson, owner of Five & Two Farms, a non-profit farm raising fresh produce for area food ministries, has played a large role in bringing a new style of gardening to the school. With Robinson’s special garden technology, which involves large fabric tubes of soil, the paved tennis court area is now a lush garden.
“It’s fresh food for the kids,” Robinson said. That was his main goal in working with the school, he said, to expose the children to the best and freshest foods they can eat, and which they themselves helped to grow. The students are very involved in watering and keeping up with the garden. Not only has it been an educational project for the students, but a tasty experiment as well. The strawberries were a favorite item they grew, many of the students said, but the fresh lettuce was also a hit.
Cockrell said many of the students brought salads for lunch after they picked fresh lettuce from their very own school garden.
Students McKenzie Melton and Katena Morrison said they had learned a lot by working in the garden, such as how the sun and rain are needed for it to survive. They were excited about getting to pick and eat items from the garden.
Last Wednesday, teacher Karen Joyner’s fifth-graders were out in the garden on a scavenger hunt to help them learn terms they needed to know for their end of grade testing in science. The students used iPads to take pictures of different things in the garden that were real-life examples of the science terms they had learned.
Blake Sharp said “just seeing the plants and taking pictures of all the life” in the garden was his favorite thing about the project. Sharp also said he wanted to thank all the people who helped plant the garden.
“This is really fun,” he said.
Jesse Nzewen said the strawberries were his favorite thing in the garden. He and Sharp said it was the first time they had planted a garden and they really enjoyed the experience. They said it inspired them to plant some things at home as well.
Some of the students have helped their parents or grandparents in a garden before, they, too, enjoyed getting to experience gardening at school.
Skylar Armstrong said she liked science, and being able to see science in action in the school garden had made it even more interesting.
Kara Hutchens said she really enjoyed the romaine lettuce they had raised in the garden.
“It tastes great,” she said. “I brought it for lunch and I put some different kinds of cheese on it and tomatoes and ranch dressing.”
“You get to see the nature and the plants growing,” said David Wampler on what he liked most about the garden project.
Joyner said the scavenger hunt had been a big help in getting the students to understand the science concepts on which they were to be tested.
“This turned out to be a great review activity and helped me clear some misconceptions that a few students still had,” she said.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.