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2014 Challenge Runner-up

Terra Centre Elementary

Burke, VA

Green Challenge Grant Utilization Plan

Currently our garden produces hundreds of pounds of fruit and veggies each growing season. Students in kindergarten through 6th grade use the produce to create edible delights such as sweet potato pies, salads, tomato salsa and more. Students have researched garden pests including the tomato horn worm. After some research we found that the horn worm is edible so we decided to roast some for lunch last year. Our school lacks materials that are needed to fully utilize the garden produce.

Program Overview

The primary goal of the Discovery Garden is to create an organic vegetable gardening program that will encourage an awareness of and appreciation for the process of growing food, the natural environment, and sustainable living.

The multidisciplinary approach generates innovative lessons related to all curriculum areas. The Discovery Garden will highlight healthy foods, demonstrate the true origin of our foods, facilitate opportunities for community involvement, and create a context for ritual and celebration.

The Discovery Garden is located on approximately 1,825 sq. ft. of school property and is centered around seven dedicated 4 ft x 7 ft raised beds (one per grade) that are used to teach concepts related to organic vegetable gardening and sustainable living. Crops grown in these beds will vary by season and will include lettuces, spinach, broccoli, and cabbages in the cooler months, and tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs in the warmer months. Carrots, onions, and pumpkins will be planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. Natural habitats have been developed in the areas surrounding the garden space to facilitate student encounters with native wildlife (i.e., hummingbird feeders, native flora, etc.) Concepts related to sustainability are implemented through a composting program (in collaboration with the school cafeteria), use of rain barrels to store water for irrigating the garden, and lessons on energy consumption related to mass production and shipping of foods.

Students from all grades work in small groups during the school year to plant, weed, water, compost, and harvest the beds. Each class has dedicated time in the outdoor classroom, and lessons are interdisciplinary in nature in support of the Virginia Standards of Learning. Students plant African American slave gardens using seeds from Jefferson’s Monticello, a Colonial three sisters garden of corn, beans and squash. 5th grade plants sweet potatoes which were a staple crop of the ancient Mesopotamians. 3rd grade grows cotton and flax then cards and spins the produce. 1st grade grows peanuts and uses some of George Washington Carver’s recipes to prepare the peanuts.

The Discovery Garden provides produce gift baskets to a local food bank. 5th graders make sweet potato pies in November for those in need. The flowers grown in the garden are donated to a local retirement home. Students grow herbs from seed and sell them as a fundraiser for a local homeless shelter. The community fully benefits from our harvest each fall and spring.

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