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White Oak Elementary School

White Oak Fall Garden 2013 from Lesley Reilly on Vimeo

Sugar Hill, GA

This Fall is our fourth year gardening with students at White Oak and the program has grown from one raised bed in the Fall of 2010, to six raised beds where all classes are invited to plant. Students get to harvest and eat many of the vegetables they grow and parents have expressed how the gardening experience at school has helped them to try more vegetables at home. Grade levels get together and donate the surplus to our local food co-op and this summer our co-op benefitted from hundreds of carrots, as most were not ready for harvest before school got out in the summer.

Our motivation for the garden was initially for environmental and health education as it was started as a project of the after-school environmental club. In that first year, we ran a Junior Master gardening program, which generated interest in the garden. The following year, our garden area had six beds and we had a draft idea for how the gardens would fit into our vision for an outdoor classroom. Once we had more beds available for planting, the teachers eagerly signed up to enhance their science curriculum as the kindergarteners studied soil, the second graders studied the parts of a plant, the third grades discussed how organic gardening helped create a more sustainable future and reduced carbon footprints. Older students discussed mathematical arrays as we practiced square-foot gardening.

Through the years, we have continued to raise money to fund our larger vision for the Outdoor Classroom, which we are calling the WOODZ. (White Oak Outdoor Discovery Zone) We are in the final stages of approving a plan that includes a historical farm where we can display and use some older farm tools and practices and we will also have an Indian village where we can grow a “three-sisters garden” with corn, beans and squash. There are plans for a butterfly garden which will bring to life the study of life cycles and pollination, and more features that motivate teachers and students to engage in learning activities outside. 

We have plans to build a 12 ft. by 18 ft. barn/shed with a tin roof that will highlight historical farming practices.   The shed will also hold the tools and equipment for the garden. Currently, our gardening tools are stored in a small, plastic shed near the school and we would love to be able to make them more accessible to the students and teachers when they visit the garden and outdoor classroom.  The water run-off from the tin roof will collect into a cistern.  Students will be able to use a hand-pump to fill watering cans that they can use to water a small section of the garden.  Historical farm equipment and tools will also be displayed in and around the storage shed.   By integrating social studies into our current garden, teachers will have another reason to come out and visit the garden.

We are excited about the year ahead as we have finally raised enough money to break ground and will continue to fundraise throughout the year to bring the WOODZ to life!