School gardens teach science, nutrition

Students at LSU University Lab School prepare a rain garden to decrease parking lot runoff into the university lakes. (Photo by Johnny Morgan. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

Steven Babcock, environmental science teacher, and Rosary Beck, garden committee member, discuss placement of the irrigation system in the vegetable garden at the University Lab School. (Photo by Johnny Morgan. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

News Release Distributed 06/10/11

Students at the LSU University Laboratory School are learning about keeping lakes clean with rain gardens and how to eat better with their vegetable garden.

Steven Babcock, instructor at the school, prepares his environmental science students to do things that are good for the community and the environment.

For the past three years the students have been redeveloping a garden that was active about 25 years ago.

One of the projects the class took on before the school year ended was the construction of a rain garden to capture water that has the potential of polluting the University Lakes.

“What we wanted to do is take some of this runoff water from the parking lot, slow it down, create some filtration, feed some Louisiana iris (our state flower) and kind of beautify a dead zone,” Babcock said.

The main purpose of this garden is to capture rainwater from the parking lot with its road grime, oil and other waste and decrease the pollutants before they reach the lakes.

“What I try to focus on in the environmental science class are big issues locally that have global implications,” Babcock said. “So with this project we’re focusing on clean water.”

In addition to the rain garden, the students also grew an award-winning vegetable garden, according to LSU AgCenter gardening specialist Kiki Fontenot.

“This is one of 11 schools that received a federal grant to begin school gardens this year,” Fontenot said.

Teachers from each of the schools awarded grants attended a day-long training session at the LSU AgCenter demonstration home LaHouse in Baton Rouge. It ended with teachers receiving the supplies they needed to operate for one year.

“This was the learning year,” Fontenot said. “Now that the schools have grown their first crop, they now are on their own and ready to provide for themselves.”

The schools will need seed and fertilizer to sustain the gardens, and they are encouraged to solicit donations through sources such as churches and other agencies.

The grant is over, Fontenot said, but she will continue to produce Veggie Bytes, the quarterly newsletter to provide helpful information for the school staff and student gardeners.

The LSU lab school has done a great job with the resources they received from the grant, Fontenot explained.

“Last year we brought 70 pounds of tomatoes to the food bank and were named the model school garden of Louisiana,” Babcock said.

Babcock gives credit to his students’ hard work for the garden’s success.

“We don’t use any pesticides at all, for obvious reasons. A kid might pick something and eat it and you can’t control that,” he said. “We do use a little fertilizer when we plant because we want to see growth.”

Of the 11 schools that received the $700 Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Education grants this past year, 10 are continuing their gardens next year, according to Fontenot.

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

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 St. Paul’s School in Covington.

Johnny Morgan

6/10/2011 11:58:12 PM
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