by Kate Evans
As the beginning of spring turns minds to planting and gardening, Morgan County students are learning the joy of working with their hands, planting tiny seeds in soil and watching little green seedlings grow in several county school greenhouses.
Amie Tutor, West Virginia University Extension Youth Health Educator, uses the “Learn, Grow, Eat and Go” curriculum at W arm Springs Intermediate School, which incorporates nutrition, gar- den-based growing and phys- ical activity. Students learned all about plants and are grow- ing marigolds in the school’s high tunnel to sell at the Master Gardeners Plant Sale in May.
The high tunnel has kale and lettuce growing that the intermediate school will buy to use in their meals, she said. Students also started some cherry tomatoes and lunch- box peppers –sweet baby bell peppers– that will also be purchased by the school to feature in meals. Tutor noted that all monies earned by the sale of plants will go back into the program.
Tutor said they were also planting a sunflower bed for art teacher Marianna Ruggiero’s classes that are doing V an Gogh paintings. Her students will paint the sunflowers in the fall.
Tutor does a six-week nutrition lesson rotation at all Morgan County Schools, using different curriculums for different schools. The WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Pro- gram (SNAP) from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
High tunnel work
The intermediate school also added a complete out- door classroom, Tutor said. The Berkeley Springs High School Science National Honor Society will be building picnic tables for it.
Science National Honor Society students revamped the beds in the high tunnel and put in concrete beds that high school agriculture teacher Dave Aberegg’ s class poured, Tutor said. A weed- barrier floor was put down in the high tunnel by Mark Glascock of Glascock Produce.
Garrett Oursler will be working with Tutor this summer as a student intern to help keep everything going in the greenhouse. Oursler, a Berkeley Springs High School graduate and last year’ s Science National Honor Society president, is now an environ- mental science major at West Virginia University. It was Oursler’ s idea to renovate the high tunnel and who got the work organized and happen- ing.
Tutor said her overall goals are a healthy community- she’ s a mother of three-re- ducing plate waste and keeping food dollars local. Kids want spinach, not ice- berg lettuce-they eat it raw. Tutor wonders how they can create jobs for high school students and the disabled to help harvest and bag the pro- duce to get it to schools.
Tutor noted that they have two production raised beds going in at Warm Springs Middle School-20 feet long, four feet wide and three feet deep. They’re deep enough to grow carrots, she said.
Hopes for program
Intermediate school Princi- pal Rebecca Huber would like for their students to grow produce that they can then sell back to the school dis- trict.
“I would like for the students to experience the entire process of how food is produced. Gardening/farming isn’ t for everyone, but there are so many layers involved that it’ s important to see the process from production to distribution,” Huber noted.
Huber said that she loves providing experiences for students and getting them excited about learning.
“The high tunnel is an opportunity for kids to experience something that is ‘different’ from traditional school. It’ s fun!” Huber stressed.
High school greenhouse
Berkeley Springs High School agriculture education teacher Dave Aberegg said that his students do some planting in the Intro to Agri- culture class and also in his Science of Agriculture class but not as much. It’s more the horticulture class. They try to start everything from seed in the greenhouse and then transplant the seedlings so kids can have the whole experience of planting.
Aberegg said that usually his classes grow tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli and some herbs depending on the year and some flowers. Typically the herbs they grow are basil, sage, rosemary, thyme and maybe a mint. The flowers vary from year to year. His horticulture students pick and choose the flowers.
Aberegg’ s classes do one little plant sale around Mother’ s Day in the greenhouse for students and staff, he said. They open it up to the public after Mother’s Day by placing a sign outside for the greenhouse when they’ re open. The high school green- house is located by the vocational building.
Lessons that Aberegg does to accompany his classes growing plants in the green- house include assessing the germination rate of seeds they purchased and how many germinated and how many didn’t.
In Aberegg’s horticulture class they focus on what hap- pens with the seed to success- fully plant and grow it. Students also learn how long it takes the plants to germinate and mature and organize a planting schedule for when they need to start planting so all the plants will mature at the same time for the plant sale.
Aberegg said that his Intro to Agriculture class is a first year class and has mostly freshmen in it, but anyone can take it. Science of Agri- culture is a sophomore year class and horticulture is typically a junior or senior year class.
Aberegg said that his horticulture class had to be dropped this year to accommodate the many underclass- men that signed up for his Intro to Agriculture class. He hopes next year that the horticulture class can be placed back in the rotation.
Paw Paw Schools
Paw Paw Schools kindergarten teacher Adam Keeling said his students planted some cherry tomato plants and broccolini in the new greenhouse he purchased with a grant.
He’ s looking forward to planting some peas, marigolds and other plants with his students.
Keeling is improving the greenhouse by adding gravel around the edges to keep out the mice and rabbits. The greenhouse is in a very pro- tected spot in an ell outside the building. The greenhouse had a little wind damage where one section of plastic came off but he repaired it with extra brackets-a temporary fix. The plastic has to have a little flex when the wind blows through it as it’s partly open there.
Keeling said his hope for the greenhouse program is that “it will encourage students, parents, and teachers in Paw Paw and beyond to develop the knowledge, skill, patience, and perseverance to grow their own food and flowers.”
Keeling and his students are also working on box gar- dens with Tina Badley from Starting Points. The kids take banana boxes that are filled with soil and plant tomatoes or peas. Kindergarteners care for the plants on site and get to take them home soon, he said.