Expanding education through school gardens

Have you ever plucked a red, juicy tomato off its vine, or dug your fingers into  rich, organic soil to pull up potatoes? The taste of freshly picked vegetables from a garden is one that wins the taste test compared with vegetables which have been transported across the country.  There is no denying that fresh, local produce has a certain appeal to many of us. Memories of working in the garden with my grandmother, and learning the value of growing food impressed upon me the responsibility of teaching children the educational value of gardening.

Over the course of this school year, gardening has become an integral component of the educational curriculum at Lake Lure Classical Academy. Children of all ages take part in sowing seeds, planting young plants, and harvesting the herbs and vegetables growing around the school campus. The school has invested in building raised beds that contain edible plants such as strawberries, beans, squash, watermelon, and a variety of herbs. Each elementary class has the opportunity to own its own raised bed and the children take responsibility for sowing, watering, and nurturing the plants. Working and tending for a class garden offers many benefits for elementary and middle school students. They develop important life skills such as appreciation for the process of growing their own food, and knowledge of the world of agriculture. Students also learn literacy, math, and science skills working in the gardens as teachers take state standards and use the gardens to expand their knowledge outside of the classroom.

As the days grow warmer, many area families are working in their own gardens. Tart blueberries, fragrant rosemary, and ripe tomatoes are being harvested in home gardens across the county. Families can engage their children in gardening, and teach them how soil, water, and sunlight all work together to contribute to the plants they harvest. During the long hazy days of June and July, learning can continue as children help their parents and grandparents tend their gardens.

Gardening helps children navigate the world around them, and builds confidence as they see their hard work pay off in the bounty of fresh vegetables.  For all gardeners, young and old, the benefits of gardening are physical, mental, and emotional. Working outdoors provides physical activity and vitamin D from the sunshine. Working in a garden allows all ages to move away from social media and electronics which provides a rest to the mind.

The gardens at Lake Lure Classical Academy are thriving, and the harvest of our vegetables and herbs will continue late into summer. When students return to school at the end of summer, they will continue to learn about caring for plants and gardens. Their education will be interwoven with the taste of juicy watermelon, the smell of crushed mint leaves, and the feel of rich soil between their fingers.

Education should never be isolated inside the walls of a classroom, but it should be expanded to include learning outdoors. The natural world is all around us in the Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge community, and students will continue to understand that learning never ends. School gardens are just one aspect that make Lake Lure Classical Academy, a school of choice and a community school. To learn more about gardening with children, our classical approach to education, or our outdoor initatives visit our website at www.llcharter.org or join our public Facebook group. We also offer school tours and volunteer opportunities for community members. Call (828) 625-9292 to learn more or to volunteer.

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