By HEATHER JAMES
EBCI COOPERATIVE EXTENSION
As the year comes to an end and students are looking towards the summer, the students, administration and teachers at Smokey Mountain Elementary School are already making big plans for their fifth graders for next year. EBCI Cooperative Extension was contacted by a very excited social worker, Joleen Sneed, about a “Very Berry Garden”. The fifth grade teachers have committed to working with their students on a teaching garden initiative.
Heather James, EBCI 4-H agent, and Sarah McClellan-Welch, EBCI agriculture agent, visited to meet with the staff and administration prior to starting the planting. The amount of enthusiasm and support for everyone from the principal, teachers, social worker, and maintenance crew was unbelievable! It takes a dedicated team like that to make this process work- the maintenance employees will be caring for the kids seeds over the summer to ensure they are ready for the fall.
“We are very excited about our Teaching Garden initiative, by recycling used playground borders and aged mulch, planting beds have been created for gardens,” said Dr. Terry R. Clark, Smokey Mountain Elementary principal. “Fifth grade has begun a partnership with the local 4-H to start a ‘Very Berry Garden’ with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes and strawberries. As students are planting and learning to care for plants, they are rejuvenated to read, to learn, and to become more involved in creating healthy food options for themselves and their families. As our project continues, we are hoping to plant seeds of learning as student’s plant and care for the seeds in our ‘teaching gardens’.”
On Tuesday, May 21, the students learned what it meant to be involved in 4-H from James, planting from McClellan-Welch, and how to get their hands dirty and learn all at the same time. Students will be having regular 4-H meetings, using 4-H curriculum, and learning by doing all year long.
The following teachers are involved in the program: fifth grade – Jamie Burgess, Connie Lackey and Emily Herndon; fourth grade – Tabatha Gillett and Jennifer Impagligtelli.