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SOARing to a food revolution
West Chatham Elementary begins sustainability garden
Each grade level at West Chatham Elementary, from pre-K through 5th grade, will have their own plot to tend to in the garden

West Chatham Elementary School (WCES) is initiating a revolution in nutrition — hence the name for their new and improved garden, Soar Garden: Seeds Of A Revolution.

The garden will encompass plants that are indigenous or particularly well-suited to Georgia, including carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, corn, and rice. Each grade level, pre–K through 5th grade, will have a bed of a variety of vegetables that they are responsible for maintaining.

They also plan on having an orchard that includes pear trees, plum trees, and peach trees. And later? Chickens!
One side is a sensory garden and is ADA-approved for children with any type of disability.  The sensory garden served as inspiration for the creation of Soar Garden.

Jacqueline Dennerlein, a teacher involved with preparing the garden, knows that implementing agriculture into the school’s curriculum is important for many reasons.

“With gardening, we’ve learned that the children don’t understand patience.  We’re in this culture right now where everything’s high tech, it’s fast; you can immediately get on the internet and get what you need. Nature is not that immediate,” she says.

Along with teaching the children the virtue of patience, gardening will also teach them a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s amazing, kids all know the McDonald’s sign. They see it and they’re like ‘Ooh, McDonald’s!’ It’s really sad for me that they don’t know the names of plants. You could show them corn in the field, and they wouldn’t know that that’s corn,” says Dennerlein.

Even if the garden only teaches the children what dirt actually feels like, it has served its purpose:

“We have kids now, even young ones, and they don’t want to get their hands dirty, or they’re not used to it. They don’t know the feel of dirt. If you really put that into perspective, it’s a little frightening,” explains Dennerlein.

One of the goals for the garden that WCES has is for the food that the children are growing to go to the school’s cafeteria. By doing so, “The kids can see from the seed, to the ground, to the harvest, to their plate,” Dennerlein says, “then, they can understand that lifestyle.”

John Hoyman, another teacher involved with the preparing of the garden, adds, “They can even see whatever’s left over go right back into the ground, replenishing it. Through composting, they can see that the worms will break it down.”

WCES also hopes that within a few years, the garden will be producing enough food to go to the cafeteria and to the community.

Once the garden is ready to have the first seeds planted, which will be before the end of the school year, it will be up to the teachers for agriculture to seep into all parts of the curriculum. The teachers will be allowed to take the students to the garden for all types of assignments.

The sensory portion of the garden can serve as inspiration for art and writing assignments. Measuring the height of the plants and tracking their growth could be implemented in math assignments.  The possibilities for using the garden as a way to teach the children are endless.

With the teachers working to incorporate the garden as much as possible into the children’s learning, there is a potential for agriculture to greatly impact the children, only furthering the revolution in nutrition.

“This is a way to educate...just to introduce the children to a variety of food and crops. Healthy bodies, healthy minds,” Dennerlein says.

For more information or to volunteer to help with the garden contact Jacqueline Dennerlein at: