(02/04/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – A group of Ascension Parish teachers spent a day away from their students to become students themselves. The teachers were learning how to develop school gardens as part of the LSU AgCenter’s Greauxing Gardens program at the AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden.
AgCenter gardening specialist Kiki Fontenot, who manages the program, said the goal is for the teachers to start school gardens that will be incorporated into their curriculum.
“At this workshop they learn how to grow vegetables, how to work with kids in a gardening setting and how to integrate gardening into a curriculum, and they pick up all of their supplies to start their garden,” Fontenot said.
With a donation from PotashCorp PCS Nitrogen, the AgCenter was able to give teachers all the materials they needed to start their gardens, including seeds, fertilizer, hoses, wood to make raised beds and garden soil.
Johanna Reese, who works with special education students at Lowery Elementary School, said she plans to incorporate the garden into many of her lessons.
“I’ll use it to teach all of the basics.” Reese said. “They will learn about how to take care of the garden; learn about the life cycles. It will be great for all of the other kids, too.”
Amanda Babin and Jessica Paz, third-grade science and social studies teachers at St. Amant Primary School, were excited to use the garden to introduce science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, activities to their students.
“The kids like hands-on activities. With the garden we can teach about plants and animals; the concepts of living and non-living,” Babin said.
Each school also is assigned a Master Gardener, who can help them if problems arise in their gardens.
For St. Amant Primary, that is Lynn Alexander.
“We’re already bouncing ideas off of her,” Paz said. Alexander said she plans to be a resource for the teachers.
“I look forward to working with the school. I see a lot of enthusiasm in these teachers,” Alexander said.
Fontenot told the teachers that a big benefit of school gardens is that students take ownership of the garden, and it can change their eating habits.
“The kids, since they are planting it and they’re growing it, they’re really excited to try it when it comes out. We’ve seen children pulling out vegetables – they don’t even wash it, and they’re biting into it,” Fontenot said.
The teachers will reconvene in a year for a half-day workshop to talk about their gardening successes and problems and get refreshed on continuing the garden at their school.
Fontenot has held similar workshops in four other parishes.
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