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Harvest yields delicious dinner for ODA students

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 9, 2010
  • East County
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — It’s not often students can enjoy directly the benefits of what they learn in class.

Geometry students can’t go build a skyscraper on the weekend. Science students don’t leave the classroom and board a marine biology trip to sea.

But for about 100 seventh- and eighth-graders at The Out-of-Door Academy, their lesson in farming paid off with sweet success last week. The students spent the year working on a 1,000-square-foot garden behind ODA’s Lakewood Ranch campus. Then, they feasted on the garden’s vegetables during the school’s eighth-grade banquet June 2.

Event organizers even used sunflowers from the plot to decorate tables for the affair.

“We’re using our own fresh stuff,” said ODA parent Tara Raven, who built the garden.

The project began at the beginning of the school year. First, the students used what they’d learned in school — such as algebra to calculate how many loads of dirt their new garden would need — to build the garden. Ten student advisory groups each took a plot and have been tending to it at least once a week.

“We started with bare ground,” said Raven, who oversaw the project with the help of teachers Kathy Dozier and Sean Ball.

Children sewed organic vegetable seeds, learning the best planting techniques over three planting and harvesting cycles.

Watching students see — and eat — the fruits of their labor has been rewarding, Raven said.

“They were so happy to be able to pull (the vegetables) up,” she said. “It was better than money (to them).”
“It’s just been a major success,” she said of the garden. “Kids work best hands-on. It was a great learning time. These kids are getting to see return on their investment now.”

Thirteen-year-old Morgan Woods said the project, which will be continued next year, was a wonderful learning tool.

“It’s great,” Woods said. “It teaches kids food doesn’t come from the grocery store. It comes from the earth. It’s amazing we can do that and there’s enough people willing to help out. It’s healthier and more fresh.”

Many of the vegetables from the garden were even incorporated into ODA’s lunchroom offerings throughout the school year, and students often would drop by the garden to snack on fresh vegetables.

But the final culmination of the project was the use of produce — fresh carrots, chives and other vegetables — in the meal for the eighth-grade banquet. About 80% of the produce used came from the garden, while the rest came from within a 100-mile radius of the school.

“We cut our carbon footprint by 83% for this event,” Raven said.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].


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