St. Teresa's educating by gardening

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- A tree grows at St. Teresa's School ... as do corn, butter squash gourds, pumpkins, melons and an educational program.

Last year a parent at the school thought it would be a good idea for students to help plant a vegetable plot on an unused area of land near the school playground. Julie Franklin's seed has grown into what is known as the Outdoor Classroom.

"Julie really got this thing started last year," project volunteer and STS parent Kim Sharp said Thursday. "But Julie moved out of town near the end of the school year, and I stepped in."

The garden is tended by several master gardeners, who act as advisers, but most of the dirty work is handled by fourth- through seventh-grade students.

The fourth-graders plant, tend and harvest the squash and pumpkins; fifth-grade students planted the corn; sixth-graders helped till the ground, and school seventh-graders planted watermelon and cantaloupes.

"Next year, we plan to expand the garden and assign specific sections to each grade," Sharp said.

Bernadette Takash, 10, is a rising fifth-grader at the school and did not hesitate when asked her favorite part of the garden.

"I enjoy picking the squash. I really like squash," she said, smiling. "My friends really don't come out here as much as I do, but when they do they like it."

Sharp said the Outdoor Classroom is more than just growing veggies.

"We are trying to teach a market concept," she said. "From seed to market. It's really a study in agriculture, science and economics.

We've canned a lot of the produce and will sell it at the Hollyberry Market at Christmas. Then we'll turn our numbers over to the math teachers, who can then teach about cost and profit in a free market.

"It also gives us the opportunity to teach the kids where food comes from, how it grows and how it gets into the store."

The Outdoor Classroom also features a Georgia-specific area where students are growing cotton and peanuts. In addition, the garden features a compost tumble where the children are learning about recycling.