Beginning in April 2012, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy teamed up with Grandin Court Elementary School to begin an after-school Garden Club for students interested in learning about gardening and growing food.
Teachers and parents wanted to spruce up the raised beds at the school and use them as a hands-on learning exercise. At first, they worried there might be limited student interest in such an “uncool” activity like gardening. But that spring, kids were playing outside, handling worms, and learning how to care for plants- and they loved it!
They saw how the items on their dinner plate were parts of living plants which took time and effort to grow. They were proud of making the school grounds more beautiful by planting flowers. The Green Thumbs Garden Club quickly grew to over 40 students. A second season of the club was planned for the fall so that all of the kids who wanted to attend could do so. Students and their families were also invited to tend the garden over the summer.
With funding from the Roanoke Kiwanis Club, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy built new gardens at Westside Elementary in 2014 and Highland Park Elementary School in 2015. Each new garden works towards an ultimate goal, to help students who participate in the garden clubs gain a better understanding of what they are eating. With more awareness of the different types of plants and what plant parts people can eat, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy hopes to encourage students to be more adventurous in what they eat and to be unafraid to try new things.
Last year, project manager Meagan Cupka helped students plant corn at Westside Elementary. When she poured the seeds into her hand, one young student cried out, “That’s just corn!” Many students had no idea that the yellow kernels they eat are actually seeds. That moment is just one of many that illustrates how important this educational program is for young people.
This project continues to reconnect kids to their environment and provide them with a space where they can play and learn about the world in which they live. For more information on the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy and their after-school garden clubs, visit www.blueridgelandconservancy.org/garden-clubs.