By MELINDA MARTINEZ, Alexandria Daily Town Talk
ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — Along with reading, writing and arithmetic, sixth-grade students at Rapides Academy for Advanced Academics are learning how beneficial sustainable gardening is with help from the Good Food Project .
The Good Food Project is a Food Bank of Central Louisiana program that distributes food grown in its demonstration garden to customers and teaches community members how to grow their own food. The program also partners with schools to grow their own gardens and teach students about gardening, food preparation and health.
Students can implement the garden with what they’ve learned in other subjects like English language arts, math, science and history, said Jessica Smith, the garden’s sponsor teacher.
For example, students were encouraged by principal Jenifer Scott and Smith encouraged students to observe the garden and write about it in their journals, said GFP principal Frances Boudreaux. This is just one of the ways it applies to ELA.
Students also learn that gardening incorporates the principles of STEM, i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Additionally, GFP teaches students about nutrition so they can make healthy food choices.
“The kids are really excited to be able to plant it all and watch it grow,” Smith said. “And they actually have to eat everything we’ve planted and grown.”
So far they have harvested radishes, mustard greens and snow peas from two raised beds set up by GFP who also provided seeds and crops.
What has been the most popular vegetable with students so far?
“Sweet peas,” Smith replied.
“They weren’t crazy about mustard greens,” she said.
Last week they harvested red potatoes which they planted in February in addition to green beans. Boudreaux showed the students how to lift the plant to remove the potatoes. They were delighted to see the results of their efforts. Once this task was completed, Boudreaux showed them how to pick green beans.
“They’re excited to try potatoes and beans next week,” Smith said. “I’ll probably have to go home and cook them, then we’ll have lunch – a snack.”
But the potatoes need to heal, Boudreaux said. It will take about six days. And they can also take it home.
Sixth grader Nathalie Buller’s family has her own garden where she grew vegetables like potatoes, green beans and snow peas. They were inspired by her sister’s 6th grade class at Pineville Junior High School who grew her own garden.
She prefers home-grown vegetables because they taste sweeter than store-bought ones.
“Because they add a lot of chemicals in the factories,” she explained of the difference in taste.
His favorites are green beans and broccoli.
“We also grow a lot of flowers and a lot of milkweed for butterflies and things like that,” she said.
Nathalie added that her family also grows their own spices like mustard.
“Using your own spices – it kind of makes it all better because you know you grew it yourself,” she said. “It kind of lights up the whole dish.”
She feels energetic when she is out in the sun and has fun all the time. Gardening has been a big family building project for the Bullers.
“It’s a lot of fun to go out and plant everything and harvest everything,” she says.
“Doing sustainable gardening is something they can use for the rest of their lives after they leave here,” Smith said. “They implement what they learn in school and can apply it outside. »
“We have seen a resurgence of interest in school and community gardens since 2021,” Boudreaux said. “Teachers and representatives of other organizations reached out to be placed on the list of new facilities and for expansion or improvement of existing garden sites.”
Rapides Academy and Lessie Moore Elementary School in Pineville were recruited this year as new pilot school partners, where new garden sites were added, Boudreaux said.
“The Cenla Food Bank’s Good Food Project hopes to be a trusted resource for teaching students and families how to grow their own food,” she said.
Learning sustainable gardening practices is a huge benefit, especially in times of high demand, rising food prices and supply shortages, she added.
For more information on the Good Food Project, visit goodfoodprojectcenla.org
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