Poplarville Lower Elementary students learn what it takes to have their own vegetable garden

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2017

After the Poplarville Lower Elementary School received a $300 grant from Mississippi Power to support environmental education, students in kindergarten through third grade have been getting their hands dirty in the school’s new vegetable garden.
In early October, second grade teacher Nicole McCardle applied for an Environmental Stewardship Council grant to expose the students to something they have never experienced.
“Most of these kids don’t understand where the fresh produce they get from the grocery store really comes from because they are not exposed to the gardening process,” McCardle said. “My intention when applying for the grant was to bring that to them and let them understand how the process works, starting from scratch.”
The kids were not only in charge of planting seeds and watering plants, they helped construct the beds, pour the soil, germinate the garden beds, pluck the weeds and watched as their own work grew.
“We didn’t just want to hand them a hose and let them water the plants, we wanted to give them the real experience of tending a garden, from beginning to end,” Renee Howard, a Poplarville Lower Elementary tutor and large contributor to the school garden, said.
Within the school is a garden club consisting of two students from each class who either volunteered or were chosen by a teacher. These students take turns tending to their grade’s garden bed, and as they wait for the vegetables to grow, they learn lessons not many kids their age receive.
“Gardening is hard, but it is fun to see the plants grow,” Dixie S., a 2nd grade student said.
“I am not a patient person, but gardening has helped me with that,” Maddie, another 2nd grade student, said. “I’m just ready to eat them.”
One student said his favorite part about gardening is knowing how to grow his own food so he can eat when he wants. The same child was in charge of planting and tending the tomatoes. He said he chose the tomatoes because he loves ketchup.
At the end of the year, the children will participate in a salsa party. They will make their own salsa and sandwiches from the vegetables in the garden.
“We hope to expand the garden. Oftentimes we have kids come up to us and ask if they can join the others and come help garden, but there just isn’t enough for everyone. My goal is to construct more garden beds so that every child can have the chance to grow their own vegetables,” Poplarville Lower Elementary Principal Candace Henderson said.
After the vegetables are ready to pick, what they don’t use during the end of the year celebration will be sold at the Poplarville Farmers Market.
“It’s the overall gardening experience we want to give them and we think it is a great way to show them what exactly goes into gardening, from the ground to the plate,” Howard said.
With the help of Longleaf Farm and Garden in Poplarville and the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the school was able to assist with the purchase of seeds, soil and other important items to establish the gardens.
“We hope to keep this going for a long time and hopefully they can take these skills with them as they move from school to school,” Henderson said.

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