Source: NorthFulton.com

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Mashburn Elementary students find their green thumbs

by Emme Raus

March 20, 2013

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Teachers at Mashburn Elementary launched a school garden and composting program for students after the school received a compost bin courtesy of Tyson Foods.

Traci Wallace, Horizons teacher, contacted Denise Carleton of Reaping Nature, a local nonprofit, to come in to talk to students about how to start and maintain their compost bin and school garden.

"Our first- and fourth-grade Horizons students have been researching and creating a plan for getting our garden and compost programs off the ground," said Wallace.

"Our compost bin and garden project has the potential to become an outdoor classroom for teachers addressing state standards about producers, consumers and decomposers in our community, the food chain and how changes in our environment affect our community ecosystem," Wallace added.

Carleton recruited the help of leaders in Forsyth County's environmental education circle to speak to Wallace's Horizons students.

"We have amazing environmentally minded organizations, resources and teachers in Forsyth County. I often utilize their knowledge and expertise to bring meaningful and practical real-world learning into classrooms," said Carleton.

Kevin Smith, community outreach specialist with Keep Forsyth County Beautiful, said, "Twenty schools are certified as Keep Forsyth County Beautiful Green Schools, and 39 of the system's schools are actively and regularly recycling."

Smith expressed his goal of how increased recycling will extend the life of the county's only and last landfill, and about what students can do to keep their county clean and beautiful.

Anna Doll, a special education teacher, co-sponsor of the Green Team and leader of the Junior Master Gardeners program at Cumming Elementary, talked to students about the school's "BeCumming Green Team" for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students.

Doll explained how students have to attend regular meetings, participate in "dig in the dirt" days, complete requirements to become Junior Master Gardeners and participate in the school's recycling efforts.

The school boasts 32 raised gardens, which grow a variety of vegetables and fruits each season with seeds germinated from the school's indoor seed germinator.

"After the first two years of our BeCumming Green Team program, we looked at our CRCT science scores of all participants," said Doll. "As a group, the students averaged about 850-plus, or exceeds expectations."

Heather Kolich, agriculture and natural resources assistant with Forsyth County Extension, demonstrated to students how nature connects all academic disciplines.

For example, students learned how nature is connected to math through measuring rainfall, calculating harvesting and planting dates, counting plants, insects and flowers and determining size of plant beds and the spacing of plants.

Kolich also talked about composting tips, including what can and what cannot be placed in their compost bin.

"I now have the information needed to enhance the educational experience for our children and their families through a school garden and compost program," said Wallace.

"It's going to take time, but the benefits will make it all worthwhile."