Monday, December 18, 2017
Education

Tasty, nutritious garden at Fox Chapel also contains plenty of lessons

SPRING HILL

There are newly planted fruit trees at Fox Chapel Middle School, some of them blooming — apple, pear, plum, peach, kumquat, pomegranate, orange, banana and nectarine.

The students also have put in raised and in-ground vegetable and fruit beds, growing blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, figs, tomatoes, peppers, squash, watermelons, green beans, eggplants, herbs and onions.

"Every vegetable you can think of is planted," said sixth-grade science teacher Christine Voigt, the force behind this delicious and nutritious effort.

The students are putting in an outdoor classroom, too, bordered by a flowery butterfly garden.

"We put in the patio area," Voigt said, and there are plans to add tables, umbrellas, trees and birdbaths.

Voigt hopes to impress upon students the value of healthy eating and good nutrition. She also wants them to learn to work in their environment.

"They need to know the planting zones, sunlight, water usage and soil quality," she said.

Building gardens and groves covers a lot of lessons. Using their math skills, students had to measure and survey. The nutrition aspect worked in well with Voigt's unit on anatomy. The students have been learning about carbohydrates, fats and vitamins.

All of this active learning, however, costs money. Voigt managed that by obtaining two grants. One was from the National Education Foundation for $5,000. That paid for the grove and fruit and vegetable gardens. The other, also for $5,000, was from Lowe's and is covering the cost of the outside science classroom and butterfly garden.

"It can be used by everybody," Voigt said.

Next year, she would like to have her students plant seeds and compare the resulting plants to those that come from greenhouses. And she hopes to begin earlier in the year, now that she has the grant money in hand.

Serena Casiano, 12, whose favorite fruit is the apple and whose favorite vegetable is the carrot, has enjoyed the project.

"I think planting the trees was my favorite part of working outside," she said. "I like being able to put the mulch around and growing all the fruits."

Gaurang Patel, 14, who likes oranges and celery, has learned a few things about growing plants.

"If plants don't get enough nutrients, they die, and every plant needs a certain space or they take each other's sunlight," he said.

Sarah Buckley, 12, who likes grapes and yellow squash, shared what she has learned as well.

"You need lots of good vegetables for protein, and each plant needs a different amount of water or a different amount of sunlight," she said,

There are good reasons to be able to grow food, several students noted.

Said Kyra Rivera, 12, who likes grapes and spinach: "If we didn't have any stores or anything, we could still grow enough foods to get nutrients in our body."

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