Richard C. Bogren, Fontenot, Kathryn
BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU University Laboratory School and the LSU AgCenter have formed a partnership to establish a model school garden to promote the educational, social and health benefits of gardening.
“As a demonstration school, we are very excited about working with the LSU AgCenter to develop and maintain a number of native Louisiana garden areas on our campus,” said Albert Camburn, the school’s middle school and high school principal. “Together, we hope to bring valuable knowledge and a host of educational and agricultural resources to this initiative that will benefit our school community as well as others across the state.”
“We are proud to partner with the Lab School to create a model school garden for Louisiana,” said Kathryn Fontenot, a school garden specialist with the LSU AgCenter. “The Lab School’s Cub Garden will be the perfect place to bring educators from across the state so they can visualize how a school garden can look.
“I hope the Cub Garden, as well as the Lab School teachers and students, will inspire other teachers to start a school garden of their own,” Fontenot said.
The University Laboratory School campus consists of a number of garden areas including a Cub Garden in the school courtyard that features native flowers and culinary herbs, a planter that contains a variety of vegetables for the school cafeteria salad bar and a rain garden that has a variety of native wetland plant species and a wooden boardwalk called Tony’s Trail around Brad’s Pond.
The garden initiative at the school began in 2009 and is led by environmental sciences instructor Steve Babcock. Under his guidance and direction, students have been directly involved in the design and construction of the garden spaces. In addition, the parent-teacher association has been instrumental in funding and coordinating garden activities and events.
At the end of 2009, a Lab School Garden Advisory Panel was formed to increase awareness of the benefits of gardening and to encourage more stakeholder involvement. The panel includes a cross section of people, such as parent volunteers, master gardeners, arborists and school and LSU AgCenter representatives.
The advisory panel is developing a three-year master plan and will hold its first annual Spring Garden Planting Day March 27.
“The stars are aligning,” Camburn said. “We have a committed group of volunteers, we have a good working relationship with the LSU AgCenter, and interest is high.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about showing that a school garden can be anything you want it to be – it can be educational, it can be social, it can promote healthy eating choices or it can be a beautiful place that inspires,” he said. “All you have to do is use it to discover the real benefits.”