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School garden workshop to be held at N.C. Research Campus

Plants for Human Health Institute

KANNAPOLIS — North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute will host a School Garden Summer Institute (SGSI), August 15-16, 8:30am-3:30pm at the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis.

This professional development opportunity for elementary school teachers builds on a two-year effort of the institute’s STEM Education Extension team to help facilitate the establishment of school gardens and provide trainings that equip teachers to use the garden as an outdoor classroom space.

Institute extension staff coordinators, Amy Bowman and Doug Vernon, are former N.C. teachers who understand teaching challenges — from funding to lesson planning. They have provided garden support at more than 20 schools this year, from site selection to lesson plan delivery to harvest and tastings of nutritious fruits and vegetables.

The school garden institute will be geared toward elementary school teachers who would like to incorporate the use of a school garden in their standards-based lessons. A school does not have to have a garden for teachers to participate in the training.

No previous garden experience is required to participate. In fact, on day one, this training will include sessions on gardening basics such as irrigation, composting, pollinators and pest management, as well as nutrition and tasting opportunities.

“In our two years of working with school gardens, we’ve realized that aside from having a school garden, the biggest factor holding teachers back is lack of confidence in their own ability to grow a garden. Day 1 will focus on equipping teachers with a skill set for success,” Bowman said.

Also on day one, participants will hear from farm-to-school pioneer Emily Jackson, director of the Growing Minds Farm to School program for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, located in Asheville.

“We’ve lined up a tremendous slate of knowledgeable individuals to deliver each session,” Vernon said. ‘They all see value in the school garden effort, though Amy and I actually believe that what students learn about ‘gardening” is secondary to their knowledge gains in science, math, ELA, writing, even social studies. Students today may be inclined to pick up an iPad, open a gardening app and measure or virtually grow things or follow the progression of a plant through its life cycle; or they can walk outside and measure, grow produce (that they can touch, smell and even taste) and witness the plant and insect life cycles as they relate to the actual seasonal weather trends.”

Day two will start at Barbee Farms, Concord, where teachers may be surprised by the ideas a commercial operation can inspire. They test new production methods, try new varieties and have to evaluate and observe the results to make future production decisions. There are obvious economic and currency lessons from considering the costs of inputs to selling produce.

The afternoon of day two will be spent at Pitts School Road Elementary for hands-on training in their garden, which was installed last August with the support of Lowe’s Heroes. We’ll do a few sample lessons and hear from teachers at Pitts about their successes and challenges in the first year.

Participation is free, but space is limited, so registration is required. The registration deadline is June 30. For more information or to register, visit go.ncsu.edu/sgsi.

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