Kentucky, Maryland, and West Virginia,
13
January
2016
|
07:00 AM
America/Chicago

Getting Their Hands Dirty

Photo of vegetables in a basket saying:

Across the country, schools are teaching students, not just with a text book, but by getting their hands dirty. Literally. And, with the help of State Farm, they are helping their communities and the environment in the process.

Crellin Elementary teaches students how to keep the body and the planet healthy

Your chicken door needs to be closed each day at a certain time? What do you do? If you are a fifth grader at Crellin Elementary in Maryland, you build an automatic chicken door that runs on solar power.

From working in the greenhouse, cleaning the wool from a sheered sheep, to taking a walk to learn about the hemlocks, Crellin Elementary Students (K-5) are learning in unique ways.

Boy petting SheepThe kids, along with their parents and teachers, learn about healthy, sustainable lifestyles and how to protect the environment. They feed the animals, plant vegetables and compost leftovers from school lunches. And the students don’t mind doing their chores…at school.Two girls picking tomatoesAt the school, they also have a lab the students use to study and collect data.

After spending time in the barn, first graders were curious about which roosting box the hens preferred when laying eggs. For two months, regardless of the weather, these little scientists went to the barn to collect data. Using the results, the second graders prepare the “Sunshine Farm” eggs to sell.

Children holding eggs

“Using the environment to teach content skills and processes is part of the approach to teaching and learning,” said Principal Dana McCauley. ”(They) strive to be self-sustaining at Crellin by tying agriculture into the curriculum.”

Virginia Chance School “Green Team” creates organic garden and compost system

Two girls standing outside of Chance School

The Virginia Chance School in Louisville, Kentucky has an eight-member “Green Team”. The chosen fourth and fifth graders annually lead the environmental and energy conservation charge at the independent school for children age two through fifth grade.

The Green Team’s first big undertaking in 2012 was overseeing the building of a 60-foot greenhouse to create an organic garden and compost system.

Girl with a basket of fresh produce, other children looking at it

“The building of the greenhouse really changed our school and our learning environment for the better,” says Ms. Cummins, the lead teacher.

Subsequent Green Teams have introduced an Aquaponics system into the greenhouse, planted a rain garden, and built rain barrels. Next on the horizon is building a chicken coop.

Children in greenhouse

The produce the students grow is used as fresh snacks for the student body, student-run farmers market, cooking classes, monthly taco dinners. Leftovers are donated to a local food bank.

In May of 2015, the National Energy Education Development Project named the Chance School the top elementary school in the country. “I think what made their project stand out is the ability to tie in growing their own food and conserving water into energy conservation,” said Ms. Cummins.

The school was honored by a visit from First Lady Jane Beshear of Kentucky in recognition of all of the great things the Green Team is accomplishing.

Photo of a girl with the quote:

Tucker County High School grows 50,000 bedding plants

High school students can get into the action too. At Tucker County HS in Hambleton, West Virginia, students are learning valuable life skills.

Through the Farm to School program, the students sell their produce directly to the high school or other schools. The school’s cafeteria is now serving meals with produce grown in the greenhouse.

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The culinary program, part of the career & technical education program, has also expanded with the addition of fresh produce from the greenhouse. Students learn how to can and preserve fresh produce for school meals.

Jars of peppers

Last year, 50,000 bedding plants were grown in the high school green house and sold to the community and surrounding counties.

Students at salad bar

With these programs in place, TCHS can make money from the greenhouse facilities and culinary programs to, ultimately, help support the students