Raised bed gardens offer education at Lowndes Academy

Published 10:22 am Friday, August 23, 2019

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Pre-Kindergarten students at Lowndes Academy are having some fun in the sun and learning at the same time.

Last week, with the help of teachers, student government leaders and the Lowndes County Extension Service, the three-and-four-year-old students planted raised bed gardens behind the school.

“We’re super excited,” K-3 teacher Kaye Merrett said. “They have been working and getting the soil ready. They’ve been working all week. We do an outdoor classroom every Friday and this gives them a chance to learn where their food comes from.”

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Headmaster Barry Mohun watched as high school students mentored the youngsters and said the project was great for both young and old alike.

“The interaction is good,” he said. “It’s something that the older students want to do. This program offers hands-on learning that can benefit them for the rest of their lives.”

Items grown in the raised bed gardens include broccoli, radishes, turnips, peppers, Swiss chard, cucumbers, pumpkins, collard greens and more.

“We a have farming fun day and it features a letter of the week,” Merrett said. “Next week it will be the letter I, which will be for incubation. We’ll be incubating chickens.”

Merrett said the hand-on approached is noticed at home.

“Parents are amazed at what they will eat because they’ve grown it,” she said.

Gray added that along with incubating the chickens they were about to add a chicken coop near the gardens.

“We also want to add a turtle habitat and a frog and toad habitat called Toad Abode. We’re planning to also have a pollinator garden and even worm composting.  This is the first stage of the program.”

Additional plans include bird feeders for hummingbirds and a bug hotel, all of which will be developed during the year.

Tana Shealey, Lowndes County Extension Coordinator said the Extension Service is pleased to be a part of the program.

“The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) is very excited about continuing our educational programs in Lowndes County’s public and private schools.,” Shealey said.  “It is a joy watching children make connections between their classroom instruction and the outdoor sessions we offer on planting, tending, and harvesting food from “raised bed” gardens.  Not only do Regional Extension Agents visit our schools teaching children about raising food, but we also have Agents who teach children the health benefits of eating those fresh fruit and vegetables”.

In Lowndes County, ACES is works with students at Lowndes Middle School, Fort Deposit Elementary, and Hayneville Middle School in maintaining raised bed gardens.  ACES also works with residents in public housing areas in Mosses and Fort Deposit on gardening projects. There are plans to expand this educational effort to include more locations in Lowndes County.  Regional Extension Agents Mallory Kelley and Urban Regional Extension Agent Roosevelt Robinson not only teach in outdoor settings, but also hold classroom instruction helping students learn about seed germination and plant cycles.