Covington school plants garden to increase environmental stewardship

Mark Richards, environmental science teacher at St. Paul’s School in Covington, and his students move railroad crossties to help improve the drainage of their garden. The school is one of 11 across Louisiana that received $700 EPA Environmental Education grants to study whether developing gardens in school will increase environmental stewardship. (Photo by Johnny Morgan. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

News Release Distributed 10/28/10

Most gardeners will tell you there’s nothing like having a little help to make a garden grow, and that’s what happened at St. Paul’s School in Covington when it applied for and received a federal grant.

The school is one of 11 across Louisiana that received $700 Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Education grants to establish gardens at their schools, said Kathryn Fontenot, LSU AgCenter gardening specialist and administrator of the grant in the state.

“We received $38,000 to start gardens at 11 individual schools,” Fontenot said. “The students were surveyed prior to working in the garden and will be surveyed again at the end of the school year to see if their environmental stewardship increases.”

After being accepted for the grant, teachers from participating schools attended a one-day training session in mid-August at the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge, where they also received their gardening supplies, said Mark Richards, environmental science teacher at St. Paul’s.

“The grant was in the form of gardening supplies, which included seed, fertilizer, hoses, timers, garden tools, just everything we needed,” Richards said.

When the students began planning the garden, senior Chris Dill helped mentor the others on what needed to be done.

“I live in Ponchatoula, and we have a pretty big garden that I help out with,” said Chris Dill, a senior in the class.

Dill said the biggest difference between his family’s garden and the school garden is he has a greater variety of plants in his home garden because his family has more land set aside for their garden.

“Planning the garden was the hardest part of the job for me,” said Matt Sirgo, a junior.

The students planted phase one of the garden, which consisted of cabbage, green beans and sunflowers the second week in September. Phase two was strawberry plants, which were set out in early October.

“In addition to my class, we also involved John Carambat’s biology class to propagate the seed for us before we put the plants in the soil,” Richards said.

The students have taken ownership of the garden and most days would rather spend the class period working in the garden instead of being in the classroom, he said.

“Our plan is to keep the garden rotated between spring and fall crops,” Richards said. “This crop will be harvested in another month, and we’ll start preparing the bed for our spring crop.

The students are planning for their first harvest now but are still not sure what they’ll do with some of their produce.

“Right now, we haven’t decided what to do with the vegetables we’ll be harvesting,” Richards said. “But I believe the students have smoothies on their mind when the strawberries are ready to harvest.”

Fontenot will make routine visits throughout the school year to check on the progress of the gardens and is developing a quarterly online newsletter titled “Veggie Bytes” that will be sent to participating schools along with other schools across the state that have or would like to have gardens.

“This grant is funding all supplies for the school gardens, the school garden newsletter, a graduate student and a student worker in horticulture,” Fontenot said.

Other schools that received the grants are:

Parks Middle, in St. Martin Parish; North Side Tech, Washington Parish; Lowery Intermediate, Ascension Parish; Mt. Hermon, Washington Parish; Family Christian, Franklin Parish; Amite High, Tangipahoa Parish; Dutchtown High, Ascension Parish; Jesus the Good Shepard Elementary, Ouachita Parish; Sacred Heart, Calcasieu Parish; and University Lab School, East Baton Rouge Parish.

Johnny Morgan

1/4/2011 1:13:14 AM
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