Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation recently awarded a $5,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant® to Bayou Lacombe Middle School’s organic garden. The grant will fund a whole-school composting program and a greenhouse to help maintain the sustainability of the organic garden outdoor classroom.
On Tuesday, February 19, four Slidell Lowe’s employees met with Gifted Program Teacher Rebekah Ellis, the gifted students, and Principal Patrick Woods to present the award and help put together a donated 8 foot by 10 foot greenhouse and 7 foot by 7 foot supply shed. The Lowe’s employees in attendance were Richard Jancas, Megan Meyers, Ricki Hannah, and Zachary Lovas.
The “outdoor classroom” organic garden and composting project provides a setting for students to learn environmental stewardship, sustainable living, entrepreneurial skills, and nutritional health in addition to challenging the students in every aspect of the curriculum and developing higher order thinking and problem solving skills.
The gifted students established the organic garden two years ago, but now the project is broadening to incorporate the entire school and make the organic garden self-sustainable through large-scale composting. This phase of the project is scheduled to be fully functioning by May 2013.
“Lowe’s is committed to recognizing and supporting efforts that enrich the lives of our neighbors and customers,” said Marshall Croom, chairman of Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. “By supporting schools like Bayou Lacombe Middle, we know we are contributing to a cause that’s important to our customers and employees and helping build stronger communities.”
Since its inception in 2006, Lowe’s Toolbox for Education has provided more than $34 million in grants to 7,500 schools, benefiting more than 4 million schoolchildren. Lowe’s supports the communities it serves through programs that focus on K-12 public education and community improvement projects.
The Town and Country Garden Club of West St. Tammany awarded the Bayou Lacombe Middle School Organic Garden project with a check for $500 in early December to begin the composting part of the effort.
The garden was originally designed and built when the school’s gifted students partnered with the employees from the local Home Depot and the Louisiana Master Gardener Program. The students also decided to take part in the Louisiana Junior Master Gardener Program and joined the LSU AgCenter’s School Gardens Project to electronically track their seeds from germination to harvest.
The Garden to Table experience provides students with hands-on food education while learning to build and maintain a garden according to organic principles, as well as grow and harvest a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs. In that phase of the project, the students will prepare various delicious dishes from the produce they have grown. Thus the garden and kitchen together provide a real-life context for learning, interweaving the theories and practices behind growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal foods.
Overall, the organic garden project functions as an “outdoor classroom” challenging the students in all aspects of the curriculum and developing higher order thinking and problem solving skills, Ms. Ellis said. In designing the organic garden, students learned analytical thinking and reasoning skills, using mathematics in diagramming the garden blueprints, calculating the supplies needed for the garden and appropriate transplanting measurements.
The students are also gaining scientific knowledge by learning about the complex interrelationships between plants, insects, soil and people. Language skills are expanded when the students write grant proposals, and visual art skills are advanced as they design and create the Farmer’s Market advertising fliers. In addition, the participants build positive community relationships working with the Farmer’s Market and local soup kitchens.
The entire experience encourages the students to develop and refine their horticultural and environmental skills, expand their knowledge of health and family consumer sciences and study environmental stewardship and sustainable living. “All this while they grow fresh produce and create meals with their own vegetable and herb garden harvest,” Ms. Ellis stated.
As an extended community outreach, the students decided to donate all of the proceeds from the sale of their produce at Farmer’s Markets (and any remaining produce not sold) to local soup kitchens.
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