Students Learn Science and the Importance of Giving Back Through Gardening
Since 2009, colorful garden boxes have been sprouting up around the twenty-six elementary schools in Humble ISD.
The planting boxes, filled with seeds and starter plants, are part of an expanded, hands-on Life Science curriculum funded with a $450,000 grant from Waste Management. Students in grades Kindergarten through 5th across the district have been growing cabbages, radishes, broccoli and other healthy foods.
While the students have tended their gardens, they have learned valuable science lessons about weather conditions, watering (especially timely during the 2011 drought), pest control, soil, measurements, growth patterns and plant life cycles.
The garden program also has taught the students a valuable lesson about sharing their bounty.
All of the elementary schools harvested vegetables this fall. And nearly all were able to donate their freshly grown produce to Humble Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM) in time for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
“Of the 18 beginning heads of cabbage that we planted, we harvested 34,” said Adrienne Despaux, Instructional Coach at Shadow Forest Elementary. “It was amazing. We were able to donate an entire wheelbarrow full of cabbages to HAAM.”
“This program has been so amazing for us,” said Millie Garrison of Humble Area Assistance Ministries. “We feed 80-100 families a day and it was such a gift to be able to give them fresh produce.”
The school produce donations were broken down into smaller, family-size portions that HAAM clients could prepare at home. With many of the families qualifying for reduced- or free-lunches, Garrison explained, the produce ensured that students continued to receive healthy food options during the school holiday breaks.
With spring planting season here, teachers and students have begun the growing cycle again. The dormant winter allowed teachers to review their gardens’ output, change strategies for what grew, what didn’t and why, and to share their students’ progress with colleagues.
“The program really opened everyone’s eyes,” said Despaux. “It started different conversations for us about science and about the gardens’ real-life applications.”
“Students were exposed to new vegetables, foods they may not have seen or tasted at home,” she continued. “They were able to connect what they studied and grew with what they eat. Some of them may have been more willing to try something new after seeing it in the gardens.”
Waste Management generously renewed its grant funding this year, continuing the garden program district-wide and funding for an endowed chair educator position. Four elementary schools, Park Lakes, Fall Creek, River Pines and North Belt receive additional support from Waste Management under the grant specifications due to their proximity to the Waste Management facilities.