Students garden at area schools

Students garden at area schools

Two UA students work in a garden at a local elementary school while participating in the Let’s Grow Honors Exploration course. CW | Heather Buchanan

Heather Buchanan

DCGP aligns with an elementary school for two to three years to ensure the educators school have a grasp on the garden-based curriculum. This semester, the Let’s Grow class is teaching students at Oakdale Elementary and Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary.

Joya Elmore, the education coordinator for DCGP, serves as the liaison between the University class and the schoolyard garden program.
 “The course is designed to teach university students about growing food and about the environment-based learning strategies that we try to incorporate in our schoolyard gardens,” she said. “So they’re working with elementary students and working together to learn about growing food, locally sourced stuff, seasonal growing and how to incorporate that into a classroom lesson plan.”
 The garden serves as an outdoor classroom for subjects besides biology. Children also learn about fractions and addition in recipes using their produce, and DCGP’s Budding Entrepreneurs program allows the children to sell their produce while learning about finance, business and communication skills.
 DCGP served 1,012 kids and harvested 1,030 pounds of produce in 2014, according to their website, and money raised from the student-run farm stands goes back into the garden budget for the following school year.

Rachel Solino, a senior majoring in international studies and Spanish, is enrolled in the Let’s Grow course this fall.

“It’s been really great because as we’re teaching the kids, I’m learning things as well,” she said. “Especially growing up in a city, urban setting, there’s not a lot of space to grow vegetable gardens. So it’s been really, really neat for me to learn about gardens with the kids.”

For Amy Schmitt, a senior majoring in biology, working with children is something she said she appreciates having the chance to do while in college.

“I don’t have that much experience with kids, and it’s just a learning experience for me,” She said. “And getting to teach them all the different kinds of things they learn in class, like math and science, reading, everything like that, it’s integrated in kind of a more hands-on setting.”
 Solino and Schmitt both said watching the children make connections about gardening and biology has been one of their favorite things so far. One lesson included a discussion about where vegetables came from, and the young students were amazed to learn things like big carrots come from tiny seeds, Solino said.

Though a couple of meetings are on campus, students mostly work on-site at one of the two elementary schools. Those taking the Let’s Grow course are responsible for reading assignments and journal entries alongside their other responsibilities.
 Students can apply through the Honors College to enroll in the class. Requirements include having a car in order to get to the elementary school workdays and having weekly availability during the school day.
 The application for the course is available on the Academics tab on More information about DCGP or the Let’s Grow course can be found on its website,