BY JOLENE M. SNEED
SMES SOCIAL WORKER
Have you ever wondered why potatoes have eyes? Or, why does corn have ears? These are the kinds of observations that kindergarteners at Smokey Mountain Elementary found intriguing when working in the school’s teaching gardens this year. Luckily, these questions are a great way to capture the imagination of beginning gardeners.
Smokey Mountain Elementary school began working on a teaching garden in the spring of 2012. They have been collaborating with locally agencies, writing grants, and recruiting volunteers. All the hard work is starting to pay off in a big way. Students are beginning to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of their labor.
Kindergarten students have been learning about vegetables that grow on top of the soil and underneath the soil. After reading the book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, students have also been learning to shop, weigh and purchase fruits and veggies at the playground’s “pretend farmers market”.
The second grade students grew butter lettuce and learned how to make lettuce wraps. Students picked and learned to wash the lettuce before eating it. Many students were surprised that they could make a sandwich without using bread. Opportunities for learning healthy eating habits abound with the teaching gardens. Students learn lessons that can help them make healthy choices and take that lesson home to share with loved ones.
Fourth grade students have been working on enriching the soil using compost and coconut fiber. They have composed essays on how to compost using food scraps from the cafeteria and dried leaves from the playground. They have learned it takes patience to wait on nature to do her part to decompose the materials and that compost mixed with coconut fiber makes some of the best soil for crops.
The fifth grade’s “Very Berry Garden” has been a sweet addition to our school. Students have harvested several gallons of organic strawberries. They have been surprised by the amount of berries harvested from a small garden. They enjoy taste testing the berries and have been quoted saying “The garden teaches us responsibility and patience because we have to wait, weed, and then pick.”
The middle school Service Club has been working to grow a “Tater Patch “. They are attempting to grow potatoes in a 4x 12 foot raised bed to see how many potatoes a limited ground space can produce. The Service Club has also been constructing and painting garden benches for their peers and staff to enjoy.
“Smokey Mountain Elementary is very proud of all the hard work everyone has contributed to make our teaching gardens a success,” said school officials.