This will be our second year growing from seed in our school greenhouse. All 500 plus of our students will plant something that will be sold at our 2nd Annual Health, Wellness and Environmental Studies Magnet School Plant Sale ! A great deal of Arkansas is considered rural with an abundance of farm land. Most would think our kids are exposed to the outdoors because of being in a rural/farming area. Our school is located in the town of Jonesboro, which has the population of 67,000. A large percentage of our students live in apartment complexes and subdivisions that limit opportunities to grow their own gardens and more sadly, to even have the opportunity to play in a yard, dig in the dirt or climb a tree.
In Richard Louv's book Last Child in The Woods, he notes that today's children are becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Their experiences in the outdoors are limited for several different reasons. In a sense, they are robbed from an education that nature provides. I found this to be true when working in our school gardens and greenhouse. It was hard for me to fathom seeing children that didn't know how to dig in the dirt. It was foreign to them. One day I took a group a kids that were 8 and 9 year olds to the greenhouse to do some planting of seeds in flats. As soon as we walked in, a little boy inhaled deeply smelling the smells of the greeenhouse and said "awwwww dirt !", like I would say "awwww fudge brownies!".
This is our third year to have a school garden in raised beds and our second year to grow in the greenhouse. It is surreal to garden with kids. They discover. They ask questions. They learn. There are wonderful educational tools and authors that are tapping into creating educational literature and activities that teachers can use to teach science, math, social studies and language arts skills in the garden.
Our school is very unique to have created three outdoor classrooms from existing courtyards that were not being utilized. We have taken it a step further by creating a student kitchen from our former cafeteria kitchen. We have found that kids are much more willing to taste something that they have grown.
We will happily be busy working in the greenhouse trying to get a jump start on Spring ! We will keep you posted on what pops up.