Spring has officially arrived with its blue skies and warmer weather, creating the perfect time for Blue Ridge School and Dalton High School to team up and bring the Blue Ridge Learning Garden to life.
“It all started by being designed by our fourth-grade students,” said Laure Esters, a teacher at Blue Ridge. “I love the idea of having students’ voice in our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) lab, and our new school garden is no exception.”
Esters and Clarissa Lewis, an agricultural teacher at DHS, realized their common goals and a dream partnership was formed.
“When Clarissa and I realized our paths had cross, the plans just fell into place,” Esters said.
Sixty of Lewis’ students have been working on the project since January. Twenty students got their hands dirty and helped design, construct and install eight planting beds, three fossil beds, three herb gardens, six benches, two worktables, a compost bin and a Plexiglas planting viewer.
“Blue Ridge provided the supplies and Lewis’ students provided the design and labor,” said Esters. “The students were so engaged in the work and wanted to help any way they could.”
Through a three-circle model and in conjunction with Future Farmers of America, Lewis guided the students through the entire process.
“I deliver classroom instruction, then through the FFA they get their leadership component,” Lewis said. “After that, we have supervised agricultural experiences where they actually get to experience everything hands-on and impact the community with what they’ve learned.”
Many hope to come back next year to teach the elementary students agricultural fundamentals, especially sophomore Naomi Ferreira who plans to pursue agriculture education.
“The students need our help and I want to help out the community,” Ferreira said. “If the kids see us doing this kind of work, maybe they will want to do it later on in life.”
That notion motivates Lewis every day in the classroom and during supervised agriculture experiences. She reminds the students of the FFA motto: “Learning to do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to serve.”
“This is how you keep a positive cycle going,” said Lewis. “We live it in class, we do hands-on activities and we give back to the community. You instill in the students reaching out and doing for others and they are going to want to do that as best as they can.”