Lafayette 4-H’ers learn science and math through school gardening program

(09/26/16) LAFAYETTE, La. – Sixty students attended the Lafayette Parish School Gardens Initiative on Sept. 21 to find out what they will be learning about growing and cooking their own vegetables and eating a healthy diet.

Nine Lafayette Parish schools are in the 4-H school gardening program this year. Three schools – Paul Breaux Middle, Ridge Elementary and Ernest Gallet Elementary – are new participants. Schools that have had school gardens in the program are Alice Boucher Elementary, L. Leo Judice Elementary, Charles Burke Elementary, Judice Middle, St. Thomas More and Green T. Lindon Elementary.

The students will also learn about the importance of recycling and composting in the school garden program, said Charles Hebert, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Lafayette Parish.

The program incorporates gardening into the classroom curricula, according to Mark Tassin, LSU AgCenter associate vice president and program leader for 4-H and youth development. “We’re teaching science and math, and they’re learning it in a fun way, and the school system sees we are teaching core competency for kids,” he said.

Louisiana is one of only three states that include 4-H in school programs.

Tassin said the Lafayette Parish School Gardens Program has been highly successful. “This is a model for the rest of the state,” he said.

Hebert said schools apply annually to be in the program. Master Gardeners assist teachers with the gardening curriculum.

Gardening can be incorporated into any subject, he said, even art and English.

The aim is not only to grow a garden, he said, but to change eating habits and also improve test scores, as well as learning about responsibility.

Each student is given a space to grow whatever they choose, and they are responsible for watering and pest control.

“We’re seeing they’re taking it home and starting their own gardens,” Hebert said.

Science teacher Judy Morgan, coordinator of the LSU AgCenter 4-H School Garden Initiative Program at Charles Burke Elementary, said one of her student teachers, Brooke Landry, later applied for a grant for the school garden program at Ridge Elementary.

Landry said the gardening component gives her students more than classroom instruction. “I like the responsibility it gives to the kids,” she said.

The School Gardens Program is funded with a grant from United HealthCare and the National 4-H Council. Other sponsors include the Lafayette Women’s Foundation, Lafayette Parish Master Gardener Program, Louisiana 4-H, Lafayette Parish School Board and the LSU AgCenter.

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Jessica Stroope, LSU AgCenter healthy living associate, tells students how to shop for healthy food during an LSU AgCenter School Gardens Initiative program held in Lafayette recently. Photo by Bruce Schultz

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Lanette Hebert, LSU AgCenter regional 4-H coordinator, uses potato chips to teach a lesson at the School Gardens Initiative program in Lafayette. Photo by Bruce Schultz

9/26/2016 9:11:07 PM
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