In-school gardens are a beneficial educational learning tool that covers a range of topics, such as germination, transplant care, spacing and nutrient requirements. Extension agents partner with teachers to implement gardening directly into their classroom curriculum.
In Jackson County, there are several raised bed gardens that are utilized as outdoor classrooms. Students begin the production process by seeding in the classroom or greenhouse. Then, students transplant them directly into the raised beds, which are equipped with low tunnels allowing the plants to get an early start.
Transplants are young plants that are setting their true leaves. Students are able to watch the plant emerge through the soil’s surface and display its cotyledons, the first leaves that appear before the true leaves develop into a young transplant. Students are able to experience the first stages of life through the fruiting and harvest of the plant.
The youths even consume the product after harvesting. In-school gardening programs have generated an increase in the number of youths willing to sample new and different vegetables. These types of hands-on, or experiential, learning activities provide teachers with new and exciting ways to engage students and have been shown to reflect positively on test scores.
The skills learned in the garden will not only assist students at school, but also outside of the school setting for the rest of their lives.
By John David Johnson, former WVU Extension Agent – Jackson County