Monday, January 13, 2014

From Arkansas: School Garden Winter Update from Melinda Smith

Melinda Smith and her colleagues at her Jonesboro, Arkansas elementary school have successfully created the kind of program that is vitally important in the world we are all facing today. In their hands-on “garden classroom” kids learn lessons that incorporate basic science, math, nutrition and the environment. They produce the vegetables and greens used in the “teaching kitchen” where they prepare and cook their produce, learning to make and enjoy healthy meals. Melinda’s challenge is to keep the garden going, move ahead and expand the program.  Read More About the Program

After our busy fall season, we use our garden classroom time in the winter months to be creative with the garden’s bounty both for learning, fun and to do fundraising planning.

(L) Last harvest before frost
(R) Salad making from last lettuce harvest - 6th graders
When the garden is quiet in winter we can cook and craft in the student kitchen with the herbs we harvested from the gardens that the kids have either dried or frozen in ice cubes.

(L) The veggie trug, purchased with Renees Garden customers’ donations, lets us grow
food for our rabbits even in freezing temps.
(R) Our two rabbits, Oreo & Coco live in one of our outdoor classrooms
There’s time now to research new things we want try for the next year, plan for our greenhouse planting for our Spring Sale and plan for our own school garden planting. Since we have unpredictable weather in Arkansas, we do have random and unseasonably warm days when the students and I can do outdoor activities or work in the garden to keep the beds clean.

(L) Greenhouse activity in the winter
(R) Yoga on a cool sunny day
Since our school has an important central theme of environmental consciousness, we look for “upcycling” crafting that we can add to our Spring Sale and for our local farmers market appearances. We received a large collection of wine corks and it was the students’ job to research possibilities and to come up with their own ideas to make items that we could craft and sell to raise money for the garden. From the corks and dried materials from the garden, they designed Christmas ornaments, cork garlands,  cork trivets, earrings, necklaces, key chains, and note pin boards. We also collected discarded CDs and DVDs and made into drink coasters.

(L)Trivets and wall plaque
(CTR) Cork Christmas ornaments
(R) Santa ornaments made from dried okra.
Our most current project is crafting aprons made from old jeans. The students have ownership because they have to find and donate the old jeans. Parents, grandparents, local master gardeners, school staff and fans of our school serve as volunteer seamstresses for the actual apron sewing.

(L) The Apron Project has been a big success.
(R) Aprons from donated jeans made with generous Master Gardener help.
All of these winter activities are both “hands on” learning opportunities for the students and also very helpful towards achieving our goal of our financial sustainability for our Garden to Kitchen educational program and for the care-giving of our school animals throughout the year.

Snow in the garden classroom

LET'S WORK TOGETHER TO HELP: When you donate money Renee's Garden will match up to $500 of the total donations.

Donation checks may be sent to:
Jonesboro Public Schools
2506 Southwest Square
Jonesboro, AR 72401
Attn. Finance Department: For Melinda Smith’s “Little Green Thumbs” Account

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