A group of children at L.C. Kerr Elementary School had fun getting their hands dirty as they removed leaves and dug through dirt last week during the first full week back in the classroom, or in the case just outside of it.
As the kindergarteners dug deeper, they noticed an orange vegetable.
“I found one,” a youngster shouted while holding up a sweet potato.
For many months, students have planted and harvested in the L.C. Kerr Garden. It began in 2013 with help from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Sampson along with Murphy-Brown.
Local farmers and Boy Scouts have also been involved with the project that’s designed for kindergartners and first graders.
As a result of the success of growing vegetables, the school is seeking assistance and volunteers.
Their teacher, Stephanie Brock, said it’s an awesome experience for the children. Some of the objectives are to teach students where their food comes from and to give students a firsthand experience with agriculture.
“A lot of children think that everything they eat is grown in the grocery store,” Brock stressed. “This is a firsthand experience that some of them would not have had (without the garden).”
Several teachers at the school said it’s a project they’ve enjoyed as much as the students.
“They are having a ball and they’re learning at the same time, which is what it’s all about,” Brock said.
Garden committee member Lindsey Faircloth said they’re excited about planting new things next week.
“The kids have learned a lot,” Faircloth said. “Some kids don’t even know what a garden is or where their food comes from. It’s just an exciting time for them to see things grow and change.”
Faircloth said they would welcome any volunteer who has knowledge about gardening.
“Even if you don’t, you can come and learn with us,” Faircloth said.
Along with finding volunteers, some of the other goals for the 2014-15 school year is to add six herb gardens, kick off a composting program, increase teacher training and grow enough vegetables to sell to sustain the garden program.
“We’re going to be teaching our students how we can recycle materials from our cafeteria and use them to help nourish the plants we’re putting in our garden,” Faircloth said about the composting idea.
The committee is working on a five-year plan for the garden.
Jodi Hall, L.C. Kerr media coordinator, said the project will also include learning about insects and animals.
“We’ll use our science curriculum with meeting the needs of learning about the stages of life, whether it’s plants or animals,” she said.
Another purpose for the garden is to promote healthy living.
“Through these experiences, we hope that the children will try to eat some of the healthy vegetables,” Hall said.
Last year, the students grew lettuce and cabbage in the garden.
“They were able to take them into the classroom and sample them,” Hall said.
Work in the garden also extended into other curriculum areas such as writing, math and reading.
Principal Jan Smith said it’s something which continues to garner excitement at the school.
“I think it’s one of the most wonderful things that we’ve done,” Smith attested. “I’m thankful for all the community support we got for the project.”
While working with the students, teacher assistant Raquel Jones reminisced on her childhood days of growing up on a farm.
“When you see this, you think about all the hard work that’s been put into this,” Jones said. “It’s rewarding to them.”
All potential volunteers must complete an application and be approved by the Clinton City Board of Education before they work with the children. For more information about volunteering, contact Smith at 910-592-3066.