Just a stone’s throw away from the East Central Elementary playground is a project sixth-grade educators Jessica Hewitt and Joshua Reese have used to give their students a hands-on approach to STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — lessons.
Re-purposed pallets collected by the school from local donors have been used as raised beds for plants. After the weathered wood was arranged in the form of a large EC, students carried buckets of dirt down to what would soon become a garden.
That garden — with all the hard work and learning involved therein — received top honors from the Garden Club of Georgia.
“When Jessica started this STEAM project, she asked if I could provide a little help,” Pam Roberts, who works with the Townview Garden Club, said. “My garden club is a member of the Garden Club of Georgia which is a member of the National Garden Club. We were able to offer some financial and physical help to these students, and we submitted an application to the state to be considered for an award for school grounds improvement based on the sixth-grade garden that was started last year as a STEAM project. This group of students, because of their hard work, won first place in Georgia.”
Hewitt said that with a year working the land, they can now enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“Last year we planted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash and sweet potatoes and we were able to share what we grew,” Hewitt said.
Roberts, who is also Hewitt’s mother, worked in the garden last summer and harvested the plants that ripened over the summer months.
“I told our students and teachers that if they wanted fresh produce, they could go out to the garden and pick what they wanted to eat. Right now, we have strawberries, tomatoes and peppers out there, so we are encouraging everyone to pick them and enjoy them.”
“The students designed the garden. We had a little competition to choose the top five designs and we voted on what would be our final layout,” Hewitt explained.
The students measured the area for the garden to incorporate math into their lesson. But that was not the end of what they were able to learn using this project.
“This project directly ties into our sixth-grade earth and science standards on rocks and soils,” Joshua Reese, a sixth-grade teacher, said that science was also a huge part of what they were able to teach the novice gardeners.
“Mrs. Hewitt purchased a grow system we used to start the growing process of the seeds. They were able to learn about how different seeds need different soil compositions, water and sunlight. Our students now know what makes up different soils, like minerals and chemicals, and they can create an environment suitable to grow healthy plants.”
In some cases, Reese said plants that failed were also great tools for learning, because the students were able to see what adjustments could be made to their garden to make it grow.
Students who have moved on to the Rome Middle School still ask Hewitt and Reese about the garden; they want to know how the plants are doing.