Growing Better Grades.

first_imgSeventh-grade students in a gardening class in Griffin, Ga.,had much higher gains on math and science test scores than students who were not in the class.And the Kelsey Avenue Middle School students enjoyed the newclass so much they’re coming to “school” over theirsummer break.Tilling the Earth and Crunching Numbers”We use a garden as an instrument for teaching math andscience,” said Blanche McElfresh, one of the teachers of theclass. “Adults do the plowing and fertilizing, but the studentsdo everything else.”The students’ “Learn and Serve Garden” is on a plot inside the Georgia ExperimentStation Research and Education Garden, a garden run by the Universityof Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”First, the students lay out a grid on paper for the garden’sdesign. Then they use string to lay out the grid on the gardensite,” McElfresh said. “This shows them where to plantseeds and young plants. But it also teaches them math skills likegeometry and measurement.”Bringing Agriculture Into the ‘Classroom’Jerry Johnson, a UGA CAES plant breeder, said the outdoor classroominvolves the college in K-12 education. He said it also helpsemphasize the use of agriculture in the school system as a wayto teach math and science.”I’ve been asked what numbers have to do with a plantscientist’s work,” Johnson said. “Math plays an importantpart of my research in plant genetics. I use my math skills everyday.”The garden class must be working. At the beginning of the schoolyear, students in the new class and the traditional class eachtake a pretest. At the end of the year, the students are testedagain.Students in New Class Earn Higher Scores”We found significant gains in both math and science,”said Ann Nunan, a teacher and coordinator of the gardening class.”The students perform much, much better than those who didnot participate in the project.”If you don’t believe the test scores, just ask students. “It’samazing. Before, I wasn’t getting it,” said Caroline Foster,a seventh-grader enrolled in the class. “But now, I’m learninga lot.”Classmate Ricky Clark agrees. “This class made it seemeasy,” he said. “They gave us a test before we started,and we all failed. At the end, we all made A’s, and it was a hardtest.”Donating Their Harvest to the NeedyBesides learning math and science, the students are learningto give to the community. They donate their garden harvest tothe “Five Loaves and Two Fish” pantry, a Griffin food-reliefagency that serves about 150 families each week.The student garden includes summer squash,cucumbers, corn, peppers, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.”Lastyear, we harvested two to three bushels of squash a day and lotsof tomatoes,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t pick them fastenough for the demand at the pantry. The pantry director lovesgetting fresh vegetables to distribute to needy families.”Twice a week over their summer break, the students visit theR&E Garden to harvest their vegetables and deliver them tothe pantry. They say they believe in the community-service goalof the class.”We’re doing this for a reason — to help people out –and that makes me feel good,” Clark said. “It’s healthyfood, too, not just canned goods.”The students say they enjoy the gardening. But they’ve learnedthat growing vegetables is hard work, too. “We all hate theweeds,” said student Ashton Presley. “But all the hardwork pays off now, because we get to see the people and give thefood to them.”Many students regret having to advance to eighth-grade scienceclasses. “I’d like to come back in the fall and harvest thesweet potatoes,” Clark said. “Before this class, I didn’teven know they grew underground.”The gardening class is a collaborative effort of the SpaldingCounty Science Center, Kelsey Avenue Middle School, the UGA CAES,the Potash and Phosphate Institute, the Griffin Utility Club andAkins Feed and Seed. The project is funded in part by a servicelearning grant from the Georgia Department of Education.last_img read more