Seeds of learning
BLACKSBURG – Second-grade teacher Jackie Hodge threw a party for her Gilbert Linkous Elementary class this spring.
A highlight of the event – like many festive gatherings – was the food.
The spread was colorful, plentiful and, conveniently, grown just a few hallways down from Hodge’s classroom.
Hodge’s students harvested vegetables this spring in the school’s garden and new greenhouse. With help from green-thumb experts, they grew lettuce, radishes and other produce, resulting in an end-of-the year salad party and the knowledge of what it takes to grow grub.
“You mean, radishes are underneath the ground?” said Master-Gardener-in-training Brett Thompson, recalling a question many of the second graders asked while grasping the concept of gardening.
They quickly learned through hands-on, weekly classes led by the Master Gardeners, who navigated them through lessons on plant parts, good insects, composting and how to start seedlings.
Soon, it was the students answering the questions.
“We ask, ‘Why do you think you plant only this deep?’” said Master Gardener Phyllis Eschenmann.
“Because it can find the way out of the dirt,” students would respond.
“They have such insight,” Eschenmann said.
Not far from the garden, located in the rear of the school’s property, is the newest addition of the gardening efforts.
A small, student-sized greenhouse rests near a hill overlooking the school’s track.
The 8 1/2-foot-by-12-foot steamy, sun-drenched glass building was funded by a $725 grant awarded by the Montgomery County Educational Foundation.
The foundation, an all-volunteer organization unaffiliated with the school system, bestowed its first five grants in the fall 2012 worth almost $2,900.
Hodge filled out an application for one of those mini-grants, and in March, the greenhouse was constructed.
“There wouldn’t be a greenhouse without that grant,” Hodge said.
“I’m very thankful that there are people in the community invested in our schools…Generous people who want us to succeed.”
The foundation was established in 1987 and is endowed by the nonprofit Community Foundation of the New River Valley.
At a June 4 reception, MCEF extended a helping hand once again to Montgomery County educators. More than $10,000 was awarded to fund projects, such as teacher Peggy DeHart’s Mix and Match art project, in which students use paint to mix their skin tones and draw self-portraits.
Blacksburg High School teacher Amanda Biviano will use the grant money to fund a program about the struggles of African refugees.
Through the curriculum, students will read memoirs and personal accounts of refugees, conduct research, write and eventually, communicate with girls in an African refugee camp.
Such initiatives are the reason the foundation exists, said Sarah Woolsey, an MCEF board member.
“This is the main goal of the foundation,” Woolsey said. “We are just so glad that the projects are so diverse and are happening at schools all over the county.”
Back at Gilbert Linkous, Hodge is looking ahead to the next school year and the next harvest.
Her goal is to continue hands-on activities in the garden, to build raised beds behind the greenhouse and to eventually be able to supply the Micah’s
Backpack food outreach with fresh produce.
Woolsey is also looking toward the future.
This fall the foundation plans to hand out the next round of grants, so projects such as Hodge’s can continue to flourish across the county.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1679
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