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SO - University Seventh-Day Adventist School

Knocksville, TN

Growing produce teaches students about science, nutrition, and more

It all started with a grant from Whole Kids Foundation, and it ended with some really incredible results.

The garden at University Seventh-Day Adventist School now has 10 raised beds, with about 1000 square feet of space for planting. The beds were created collaboratively. SDA students worked together to build and fill them with soil under the guidance of master gardener volunteers.

SDA's staff holds dear several tenets that they seek to teach, every day, to their students. The expansive school garden is an excellent testament to their philosophy: "True education recognizes the close relationship between the spiritual, mental, and physical natures and thus strives for the development of the total individual," the school site says.

The garden helped to implement many of the school's goals.

"To provide an environment in which the student will learn the value of a temperate and healthful lifestyle."

By producing and enjoying their own fruits and vegetables, SDA students had the opportunity to take a hands-on approach in healthy living. Emily Gonzalez, the garden coordinator, says the children planted "all kinds of fruits and vegetables including strawberries, leeks, green onions, mustard greens, spinach, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes, kale, and herbs such as sorrel, oregano, lavender, rosemary, and thyme." Such a variety offers plenty of healthy choices to learn from and to taste.

"To provide avenues for development of physical fitness."

Building in a garden from scratch and cultivating it is powerful physical work. From adding soil, sowing, watering, weeding, harvesting, and finally tilling the soil for renewal, the students grew stronger.

"To develop basic skills, intellectual curiosity, habits of accuracy, self-discipline, and responsibility."

Gardening teaches students broad and detailed skills such as these, ones they'll use throughout their lives "Using our youth gardening curriculum and hands-on activities, we have taught the students about the various plants, plant nutrition, soils and soil conservation, weed identification and prevention," says Emily.

"To encourage students to think critically, independently, and creatively."

Students learned what works in their garden and what doesn't, and had the chance to problem-solve in order to keep their garden productive. They learned a great deal. "The expanded garden space allowed for continuous planting and experimentation with new plant varieties," says Emily. "Improved soil fertility and organic matter enabled more vigorous plant growth."

Future plans for the students and their school garden include kitchen instruction using the produce grown in the garden as a basis. It would be a special way to bring the learning beyond school grounds, to teach others about what produce is in season and when, and how to prepare it best. ""We have also incorporated seasonal cooking using ingredients from our garden….We would like to partner with the local community and the school's kitchen and garden to eventually offer seasonal cooking classes using produce from the garden," Emily says.

The SDA staff is proud of what their students have learned on an interpersonal level, including "the value and benefit of teamwork to ensure a job well done," says Emily.