Freedom and Tara elementary schools receive grant to develop gardens.
After the pandemic put the garden at Tara Elementary School on hold last year, Josephine Johnson, a kindergarten teacher, was excited to get the garden started again.
“This year we went above and beyond,” Johnson said. “It was a lot of work, but it was fun.”
Johnson as well as Barbie Lane, a pre-K teacher at Freedom Elementary School, received $500 grants from the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom’s School Garden Grant program to purchase tools, soil, seeds and more.
Tara Elementary has a kindergarten garden and an edible garden, and is in the process of creating a butterfly garden.
The kindergarten garden and edible garden have various fruits and vegetables including lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers and strawberries.
The edible garden is a garden for all students to use, and Johnson hopes teachers will use the gardens to teach science labs and other lessons.
Johnson said the butterfly garden will include native Florida butterfly plants such as milkweed as well as a lemon tree and dill because those plants attract butterflies such as giant swallowtails and black swallowtails.
“I have one plant in the classroom, but I want the whole entire school to see it, and I want it to serve as a lab,” Johnson said.
Almost every day, Lane’s students are asking to go outside and check on the fruits and vegetables they planted after spring break.
They’ll spend time watering, measuring and learning about the plants.
“I personally love gardening and growing things,” Lane said. “I’m from up north, so I find it a little bit challenging to grow those same things here in Florida. It’s been a learning process, but I thought if I could share my love of gardening with the kids and introduce them to new fruits and vegetables and show them this is easy, this is something you could do at home, and it could be a fun family project.”
Lane and Johnson hope having the students eat what the gardens produce will help students develop healthy eating habits.
“The kids are more open and trying new vegetables,” Johnson said.
Lane will have her students do taste tests and decide which seeds they would like to grow so they can take it home.
“It’s nice to see when you put in all this time and effort, it does pay off and the kids are enjoying it,” Lane said.
With the three gardens at Tara Elementary, Johnson said the school will start a garden club next year.
“This whole place is going to be a Selby Gardens,” Johnson said.
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