Watson Primary garden program continues to grow

Jamie Adams tends to one of the 21 garden beds outside Watson Primary School Tuesday morning.

Like the produce in the beds sitting outside the school, Watson Primary’s garden program continues to grow.

Jamie Adams, who works with both the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and Watson Primary School, said that each day this summer, between 5-13 students came to the school to help maintain the garden. They were provided snacks fresh from the garden, and learned other techniques related to preparing freshly-grown vegetables.

“We made snacks, however, most days we just snacked out of the garden with carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes,” Adams said. “We were able to work with Caramie Edwards from the extension office and pickle the beets we grew. Each kid was able to cut the beets, mix the brine and fill their own jar. After that, we took part in her full canning class.”

The students also worked with 4-H students, making salsa, pickles, jam and pepper jelly, Adams said, which were entered into the Madison County Fair.

Students this year will also have the opportunity to work in a new greenhouse that was built outside the school this summer. Earlier this year, a greenhouse was also built outside Huntsville Intermediate School.

“We were able to purchase [the greenhouse] from Yoderbilt Greenhouses, with the help of the WholeKids Foundation grant, PTSO (Parent Teacher Student Organization), Watson Primary and some funds that were raised last year through the garden’s color run,” Adams said. “This year, we will be working at getting flowerbeds around it, building shelves inside and learning what all the greenhouse can do for us.”

The greenhouse is the newest addition to a program that has grown quite a bit since Adams came to the school a few years ago. At first, the program had six garden beds divided among all the school’s students. Today, it has 21.

“The garden is a hands-on learning space,” Adams said. “Every time we go out to the garden – which is once a week for 40 minutes for all classes – the kids put their hands in the soil for one reason or another. There are days we take our shoes off, sit on the garden beds and discuss what we will be doing that day. Many times when I pick them up from their classroom, they cannot wait to go to the garden.”

The class – which is part of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) – isn’t just to learn how to grow produce, Adams stressed. While the students will be focusing on a fall garden in the next few months, they’ll also learn other lessons. In the garden, while getting their hands dirty, students will learn about nutrition, how to care for bugs and worms, how to take personal responsibility and simply how to take in their surroundings.

“There is so much that the garden does for the students,” she said. “Garden time not only allows time to teach nutrition and curriculum connections, but it also helps reinforce responsibility. They have soil to maintain and plants to keep alive. It teaches kindness and gentleness. They have worms to handle and food to pick from plants. It teaches care for our earth and our soil.

“We take days and do a campus cleanup of trash that has blown in. We talk about how the plants and trees that we plant not only give us oxygen, but keep our soil in place by stopping erosion. There is so much I could say about gardening and its benefits, but I will finish with this: I am so thankful that I get to teach and learn right alongside these beautiful little minds.”

Adams also had praise for school administration.

“I am appreciative to my principals, [former Watson Primary Principal] Candra Brasel and [current Principal] Jennifer Roach, as well as our district, who find it beneficial to keep this program alive,” Adams said. “My hope is that I plant at least one little seed in one of these students.”

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