South Fayette students design, plant gardens

Published Jun 2, 2014 at 3:22 pm (Updated Jun 2, 2014 at 3:22 pm)

Gardening is taking on new meaning for students at South Fayette Intermediate School. Third through fifth-graders are using the skills they’ve learned in their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) class and core classes to design, create and maintain different types of gardens at the school.

Students are learning how to build and care for hydroponic gardens inside the classroom and raised-bed sustainable gardens outside. The school also has a rooftop garden space, that has various succulent plants, which teachers use as an extension of the classroom when the weather is nice.

“Every homeroom teacher participates in the lessons,” said Melissa Drake, STEAM teacher at the Intermediate School.

Learning about plants “goes hand in hand with what they’re learning in their science unit,” in third grade, Drake said. In addition, Drake said in the STEAM class “we continue to revisit these ideas.”

Fourth-graders have been growing romaine lettuce hydroponically since the beginning of the year. Recently, third-graders were given the task of how to create a hydroponic garden with ordinary things found around the house – like buckets and beverage containers – to grow hydroponic lettuce.

“I learned that you don’t need soil to grow lettuce,” said third-grader Jake Borgese.

Outside the school, several raised garden beds were constructed. The beds will become sustainable gardens and students and their parents have the opportunity to sign up to care for the garden beds during the summer. In the classroom, students mapped out where each crop should be planted based on how much room and sun it would need.

“One of our visions is to eventually share the crops with the cafeteria,” Drake said. Students recently started planting the first crops in the sustainable garden – tomatoes, peppers and cauliflower. Drake also wants to plant some sunflowers outside to show the students how big something can get from one seed. Plans to grow herbs on the roof of the school are in the works.

Once the crops are planted, information cards will be placed next to each one. Drake said a QR code will be placed on each card and anyone with a smart phone will be able to scan it and hear information about the plant. Third-graders are working on preparing the voice-overs for when folks scan the code.

On a sunny Friday afternoon at school, third-graders were busy preparing the soil and planting a few of the crops in the garden beds.

“It feels happy and nice that we’re helping the community and school,” said student Yousef Saeed, who was working on clearing rocks out of the raised garden beds. “We are so lucky to be picked to do this.”

Students and parents will continue to work in the garden in the summer through the school’s adopt-a-garden program. The school is also offering a summer STEAM camp for students that will run from June 23 to 26. Registration for the camp is $100 per student.

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