brought a few 'ahs' from her classmates before they continue with their
own chores of watering and weeding their little classroom garden.
morning before the school bell rings, the 20 third- and fourth-grade
students check on their garden plots then head into their classroom.
about seven weeks into the school year, everything is coming up -
radishes, along with cabbage, lettuce and several other vegetables.
learning science," said Partridge third- and fourth-grade teacher
Carmon Unruh, noting her students have learned about seed
identification, spacing, fall crops versus spring crops, as well as soil
nutrients and planting depth.
They also are making new friends while working as a team, Unruh said.
Unruh, whose husband farms
in Reno County, said she got the idea after taking a class through
Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom to help her fulfill
her continuing education credits for licensure.
The director of
the program, Cathy Musick, said 39 teachers from across the state took
the program last year, with about half having an agriculture background.
Kansas is known as the wheat state and for its acres of farmland, many
of the state's youth these days are generations removed from the family farm. They haven't ridden in combines or helped haul grain to an elevator. Some think their food simply comes from supermarkets.
But gardening is something anyone can do regardless of whether they live on a farm,
said Evelyn Neier, a Kansas State University Research and Extension 4-H
youth development specialist who specializes in youth and community
However, she said, more and more youth aren't familiar with horticulture because their parents don't garden at home.
In addition, Neier said, kids don't get outdoors as much as they used to.
"We're trying to bring that interest back in gardening," she said, adding that people "want to know where their food is grown.
"People want to become closer to their food source and gardens are a great way to stretch their food dollar," she said.
who helps teach the horticulture classes through Ag in the Classroom,
said the program shows teachers how to incorporate agriculture learning
back into the school system while obtaining continuing education
Several teachers have gone back to their schools and
built a garden, she said, but added not all have those kinds of
opportunities because of cost and space.
"Some have container gardens," she said. "They can still go back and grow plants inside the classroom."
helps educate students how agriculture affects their everyday lives,
Musick said. Even urban kids could become interested in producing food.
kids do get excited about learning," she said. "If children experience
small success in a school garden, they might be more involved in a
community garden, too."
The Ag in the Classroom experience
prompted Unruh to try producing a classroom garden, eyeing a green spot
just outside her room window. Her husband hauled in dirt and manure. The
school secretary donated railroad ties. They built a frame that will
hold a tarp when the weather gets cooler, and Unruh found garden tools
at a garage sale for $1.
"It was great," she said. "I bought it all."
followed a chart provided by Ag in the Classroom on what to plant in
the fall and how long until it matures. Typical fall garden vegetables
include cantaloupe, radishes, carrots, beans, lettuce and cabbage.
While half her students have a farm background, Unruh said all students have learned from the outdoor classroom experience.
For instance, said fourth-grade student Zane Jacques, a 9-year-old farm kid, too much chicken poop will burn up a garden.
"It did horrible," the Partridge fourth-grader lamented with pals Benaiah Yoder and Dylan Yoder as they worked in the garden.
They returned to the class in August to find their garden plot needed a good weeding.
"The pigweeds were as tall as I am," Zane said. "We came and watered it and pulled at the weeds. Then we started planting."
seems the plot has cooled a bit since the trio first planted vegetables
as third graders. Many of the 20 students make sure to point out to
visitors that the three boys have the garden's largest cabbage plants,
along with a healthy row of lettuce.
Dylan said the class sampled
their produce last year, with everyone taking what they raised from
their plots and making a garden salad.
"I had a parent tell me his child didn't eat salad," until he started working in the garden, Unruh said.
That's a plus of student gardens, Neier said. Students learn to eat their vegetables.
have the experience of growing them and nurturing them," she said. "If
we can get them involved in gardening, we can get them to plant and pick
and try some of these new foods."