Elementary students learn with farm-to-table program
Farm-to-table programs provide students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on, experiential learning through gardening. The program in Ms. Emerick’s sixth grade classroom also gives students access to healthy food options and provides a way for students to try new food items. The project also increases students’ knowledge about gardening, agriculture, healthy food, local food and seasonality. The program has been paid for through grants.
The program started about six years ago, when Ms. Emerick brought a basic aquaponics fish tank to her classroom and her students grew radish sprouts. “That sparked my interest in aquaponics and growing in the classroom,” she explained. “Three years ago, I found an unused Aero Garden at school and started growing mint and basil. Then, I wrote a Dynamo Education Foundation Grant to help me purchase a true aquaponics fish tank and larger Aero Gardens.” Securing the grants, Emerick expanded the gardens to grow lettuce and cherry tomatoes.
The Farm to Table Program at Allegheny Valley School District adds to student learning because it is hands-on and student-led. Once everything is set up, the teacher’s part is minimal. The students gain interest in exploring different items to grow. The human impact on the environment is integrated into the program, which impacts on both science and social studies curriculum and the program supports sustainability. The students love the program. “They come in everyday and the first thing I hear is, “look at the plants!” Emerick says. Students check water and nutrient levels and feed the fish in the aquaponics tank. They believe they are really special to have this program in their classroom.
“It is my hope that by having my students try new healthy food options, they will continue to make healthy food choices when leaving my class,” Emerick commented. “Oftentimes it’s a matter of having a younger person try something new. I have noticed that if they are a part of the growing experience, they are more likely to try new foods.”