In a unique summer camp experience, students from Miles Davis Elementary had the opportunity to get their hands in the soil and learn about what makes a garden flourish.
The camp was an extension of the school’s learning garden curriculum, which provides a hands-on approach to understanding botany and other plant sciences. In addition to harvesting fresh produce, participating students explored gardening, agricultural practices and healthy eating from within both the garden and the classroom.
“We spent our first day learning about bees,” said Mike McKinney, the Engineering Coordinator for Miles Davis and the head of the garden camp. “We watched a video on the different types of bees, then observed them in the garden and discussed how their pollination helps with the flowering of plants.”
Students then learned about what parts of a plant they eat, differentiating root vegetables from stem, and stem from flower.
“We made a big chart of the fruits and vegetables they eat, then ranked them according to popularity,” said McKinney. “Watermelon came out on top, and green beans were dead last.”
The highlight of the camp came on day four when students were given the chance to conduct a harvest, bringing lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, and various other fruits and vegetables out of the ground and preparing them for their journey to the dinner table. But before they were allowed to harvest anything, the students had to engage in the safe agricultural practices they’d been taught.
“They learned to sanitize tools and containers, and above all, to thoroughly wash their hands,” said McKinney, who had emphasized the need for clean hands by bringing in glow cream – a substance that reveals the presence of dirt and bacteria under ultraviolet light.
“The students would wash their hands, then put the glow cream on and look at them under the UV light,” he said. “They were shocked to see how much dirt they’d missed.”
According to McKinney, the goal of the learning garden camp is to continue developing an understanding of healthy eating while teaching students how to safely move fresh food from garden to table.
“We can’t control what they’re eating at home,” he said, “but I think that the more familiar students are with fruits and vegetables, the more likely it is that these foods will become a regular part of their diet.”