Paula Guidry, a fifth-grade teacher at L. Leo Judice Elementary School, has been working with the Lafayette Parish 4-H School Garden program for nine years. Through her involvement in this initiative, Guidry was recognized as the 2018 Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year at the 96th Annual Meeting of the Louisiana Farm Bureau in New Orleans.
These 4-H school gardens are a collaborative effort between school administration, faculty, students, Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners, the LSU AgCenter 4-H Youth Development Program and the Lafayette Parish School System Child Nutrition Program. The gardens are outdoor laboratories that incorporate school curricula and teach anything — science, math, English, history, language arts and physical education.
The Lafayette Parish 4-H School Garden program has helped Guidry learn more about gardening and healthy living. Guidry recently reflected on her involvement with the school garden initiative.
What was your reaction to receiving the Teacher of the Year honor?
I was shocked and excited. There are so many people in our local program and around the state who are doing innovative things with school gardens that are deserving of this honor. I feel blessed to have been chosen.
Why do you feel the 4-H school garden effort is of benefit to students?
This program benefits students in so many ways. The most obvious is it teaches them how to plant, take care of and harvest a garden. These are skills they can bring home and will be able to use throughout life. Another benefit is the garden makes the curriculum more interesting and relevant to students’ everyday lives. The greatest benefit, though, is that it teaches students how to make healthy choices. Through this program students learn about nutrition and the many benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.
What would you tell other school representatives to encourage them to include school gardens into their lessons?
Incorporating the school garden into the curriculum gets students fully engaged, makes the students’ lessons relevant to them and builds their interest. It allows for practical application of skills students are learning, such as measurement, reading charts, researching and writing. The garden also gives educators an outdoor laboratory for science experiments and activities.
What is your favorite memory of working with school gardens?
My favorite memory of this experience is our school cook-offs. Teams of students and faculty members compete against each other to see who can create the healthiest and tastiest meal using items they have grown in the school garden. The cook-off lets the students shine by bringing in everything we are teaching about gardening and nutrition together in one event.
This article appears in the Louisiana 4-H 2019 Annual Report.
L. Leo Judice Elementary School teacher and 4-H volunteer Paula Guidry combines math and science for her students through the Lafayette Parish 4-H School Garden Program.