Spring certainly has sprung for Gulf Coast Academy's sixth-grade students.
This season, they have produced green beans, bell peppers, radishes and some tomatoes, although there were some insect issues with the tomatoes, and have started their spring gardens. They hope to produce flowers from bulbs in time for Mother's Day.
The charter school's sixth-grade gardening program is an extension of its life science class, which includes lessons on photosynthesis, germination, transpiration, plant cells vs. animal cells and monocotyledons and dicotyledons, explained teacher Melissa Raulerson.
Gardening gets the students outside and gives them firsthand experience in producing food. The garden is away from school grounds in Forest Hills and is financed by grants from the Florida Farm Bureau ($212) and Florida Agriculture in the Classroom ($1,232).
During the first phase of the program, a Hernando County Extension Service representative visited the students and instructed them about soils, insects, fertilizer, irrigation and techniques for growing edible plants. The students did their fall planting and later reaped the rewards.
The second part is a different gardening technique.
The students are experimenting with raised-bed gardens. Joseph Gatti, Gulf Coast's director of curriculum and instruction, said the idea is to show students how to grow a garden in suburbia. With this they are being shown how to install and use irrigation timers as water conservation systems.
There are 44 students involved with these projects, and science teacher Raulerson is assisted by field trip coordinator James Kaufmann when she has students away from the school.
"We want the students to walk away from this with the knowledge and appreciation of home gardening," Gatti said.