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Fernbank Science Center

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Atlanta, GA

Fernbank Science Center (FSC) has a wonderful composting and gardening program that has been teaching students and teachers about the benefits of outdoor classrooms for many years. This year, FSC will be receiving a greenhouse that is going to be builit in the same location as the existing gardens. We are planning to move the gardens to the front of the building and also move an existing herb garden from another location that is maintained by the Master Gardeners from the University of Georgia Extension Service. We have over 150, 000 visitors a year at Fernbank, and touring the gardens is one of their main activities. We also teach numerous classes in the gardens, and they are also used for a main portion of the School Master Gardener course that has been taught every summer for the past 10 years. This program has trained over 250 teachers at 40 different schools to develop a gardening program at their own school site. 

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We will be adding a math themed garden, and we will need to design and make new signage that demonstrates the math concepts we will be showcasing. We will also expand our “moon garden”, since our new location will be next to the observatory and visitors will pass through our garden to reach the observatory. This will highlight not only our night time pollinators, but also plants that have astronomy related names like the Moon and Stars watermelon.

The relocation of our garden will offer us the opportunity to thoughtfully plan our space from the start, taking into consideration all our goals. It will continue to be used as a laboratory and classroom, offering learning opportunities to the students and teachers in Dekalb County, as well as to community members who participate in classes and workshops offered by FSC.

The math garden will be another component of using themed gardens to combine core curriculum standards with gardening. We plan to continue to incorporate Social Studies and Reading as well through our Colonial Garden, Victory Garden, Native American Garden, African Garden, The Spice Route, Reading Garden and hopefully other new and fun additions. The garden will continue to serve as a demonstration for students and their families on how easy it is to grow edibles, while using practices such as crop rotation, companion planting, composting, container gardening and organic pest control. 

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Because our new location will be in the front our building, it will be more accessible and visible to our 250,000+ visitors a year, including the families that attend the elementary school directly across the street. Our goal is to eventually add outdoor classroom seating, which will provide the perfect setting for our recently acquired outdoor kitchen cart. Not only will we be able to offer instruction in gardening, we will be able to offer opportunities to learn about harvesting, preparation, storage, and seed harvesting.

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We currently offer seed packets to visitors using seeds harvested from our gardens. Sometimes, you have to give them the seed, in order for it to be planted! We offer a matching activity at our events, and are shocked at how many students are so detached from where their food comes from. One of our biggest rewards is when a student or visitor gets to pick something fresh in the garden and taste it, and for many, know for the first time what a tomato is really supposed to taste like or ask why a strawberry is so small, but tastes so good. This opens the door to talk to them more about where food in the grocery store comes from, and the importance of eating locally grown food. We are so excited about the possibilities our new space has to offer and the variety of educational opportunities for our community.