Woolly School Gardens Profile: Frederick V. Pankow

Jun 02, 2010

Woolly School Gardens is in the midst of a month long effort to bring school gardens to 250 schools across the country. Each of these schools has a story to tell. Their students are eager to begin growing plants and learning about nutrition. As we spread the word about Woolly School Gardens, and ask for your support, we thought it would be woolly to profile some of the schools in line to receive gardens.

Today, we visit Frederick V Pankow and their unique greenhouse and flower shop that’s part of the L’Anse Creuse School District, located in the suburbs just north of Detroit, Michigan. L’Anse Creuse School District is named after a street that runs to a river that originally was used by farmers to transport their crops to market. Once more L’Anse Creuse will be focusing attention of growing and harvesting crops.

Working closely with the gardening instructor, Shirley Tautolo, high school students from the school district plan to install their Woolly School Garden at one of the local elementary schools, where they will mentor and help the younger students grow their own vegetables and herbs throughout the year.

Hi Shirley! Thanks for taking time to tell us a little about your school. Please tell us a little about your school’s student population.

We are located in Macomb County, our school district covers four townships. Like all Michigan residents, we are struggling with high unemployment, currently at 16% in Macomb County, as well as increasing home foreclosures. Our current rate of free and reduced lunches is over 30%.

Why does your school want a Woolly School Garden?

High School students from the Horticulture Program, Pankow FFA, are adopting two elementary classes for the 2010-2011 school year; a class of third graders from Green elementary and a first grade class from Higgins Elementary. Our high school students will visit once a month and present lessons about agriculture, including gardening, planting seeds, and growing vegetables. Students will have a blog about the project and will respond to questions and topics weekly. The Woolly School Garden will be placed in the elementary schools. Horticulture students will work with the elementary students to grow vegetables and herbs throughout the year.

Are the students familiar with gardening or will this be a new experience for them?

Students have varied knowledge of gardening, some have gardened for years and others live in an apartment and have never had a garden. Horticulture students are familiar with gardening. They currently are doing a project called Farm to Table. Farm to Table gives students an opportunity to grow lettuce and herbs for the school restaurant. Students are developing an educational outreach program about the benefits of growing your own food, and purchasing locally grown food. Some of the horticulture as well as most of the elementary students will be new to gardening.

What skills or lessons do you hope to teach in your Woolly School Garden?

Students will learn about plant science, plant propagation, plant growth and development, plant morphology, plant breeding (pollinating tomatoes, and cucumbers), garden planning and maintenance, composting, vermicomposting, as well as hidden lessons about responsibility, sharing, community service etc. Lessons will also include academic activities such as:

– counting seeds planted and how many came up to determine germination rates

– weighing harvested vegetables

– writing poems and stories about their gardening and composting

Students will also be responsible for blogging on a weekly basis about the project, addressing a specific question or problem related to the project.

Is health and nutrition a concern for students at your school? How do you see the School Garden addressing those concerns?

Health and nutrition is always a concern for schools. As part of the overall project, parents will be surveyed about their concerns for their children (health, emotional, physical, mental), and what they want their children to learn and gain from the project. Parents will participate whether through time, work, or financial support. My guess is that many children do not like salads, or fresh greens, many have never had the opportunity to eat a fresh green bean off of a plant from the garden. This will hopefully lay the groundwork for the children to live a healthier lifestyle.

Do you think students will appreciate the experiential knowledge of gardening for themselves? How do you see that benefitting them in other areas?

Children love hands on activities. When a child can see something grow they get excited, and when you have excitement you begin to develop lifelong healthy habits. Teaching children to garden will take home the new skills to the parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and even friends. How many times have you seen a child in a store begging for a chocolate bar only to have the parent give in and buy the candy. Now, imagine that same child begging the parent to purchase lettuce or carrot seeds, and the parent not knowing how to grow vegetables, but the child responding how easy it is and that they taste so good. That child remembers picking a green bean and eating it right off the plant, or having a sandwich with fresh lettuce on it, those are good memories. The passion for gardening is what we want to accomplish.

Benefits will also be realized by the high school students. When they teach what they have learned about gardening to the elementary students, they will reach a higher level of learning. Students will take their knowledge home, talk about it on their social networks, and disseminate it through the web blogs. The blogs can reach countless people.

The kids at L’Anse Creuse School District NEED YOUR HELP! Vote today and everyday in June for Woolly School Gardens on Pepsi’s Refresh Everything Website!

To vote, click on the above image or visit WoollySchoolGarden.org for a direct link to the voting page! And Please Spread the Word! Thanks for your support!

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