NASHVILLE – Fourth Graders at Bailey Elementary don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Teachers also don’t mind since it provides the students with a new and exciting learning opportunity each day.
The students are spending nearly 30 minutes each day working in gardens they planted as part of the school’s outdoor classroom.
“The outdoor classroom is a place where students can learn first-hand about how agriculture and planting gardens impact our community,” fourth grade teacher Lisa Langley said. “Our community is very rural, and we wanted the children to have hands-on experience to see if they may have an interest in agricultural careers in the future. We have talked a lot about how it affects our economy.”
The concept for the outdoor classroom came after Langley and AIG facilitator Frances Anderson attended a workshop last year hosted by Farm Bureau’s ‘Ag in the Classroom’ initiative in conjunction with N.C. State University and the N.C. Strawberry Association. The school’s current fifth-graders and their parents broke ground on the project last year, with a number of community members also pitching in their support.
“We went to our local farmers, Linda and Joey Bailey, who gave us the strawberry plants, and then Farm Bureau donated all of the other materials.” Anderson said. “Nelson Brantley, another local farmer, donated our soil. We had tremendous support from the community in starting this project. This year, the students wanted to build one more bed, so our master gardener came out and helped with it.”
Students conduct research on their iPads and access literature and informational text related to gardening to assist them as they work to grow a variety of plans including onions, cabbage, mustard, kale, turnips, spinach, radishes and potatoes.
Fourth grader Ashley Silva said she is enjoying learning more about the about the agricultural process that plays a big role in her local community.
“I enjoy planting all the strawberries and vegetables.” Ashley said. “It’s a lot better seeing them grow in person, instead of looking at a virtual one, because we can use our five senses.”
Principal Amy Thornton is pleased to see how the outdoor classroom provides numerous opportunities for students to interface with the new, more challenging curriculum.
“Our outdoor classroom is a wonderful place to implement the standards in the Common Core curriculum.” Thorton said. “It encompasses all of our core content areas. We get to address so many standards in that one outdoor space, and the students love it, because they are working hands-on and engaged, in the process the entire time.”
Other classes in the school have also started to become involved with the project. Fourth grader Aramis Guiterez said he likes to talk to other students to get them to take an interest in the outdoor classroom.
“My cousin, Alexander is in third grade, and I told him that when he gets to fourth grade, he will get to plant a soup and salad garden, and a strawberry bed,” Guiterez said. “He will get his own strawberry plant, and just about every day he’ll go outside and observe the plants.”
Farm Bureau’s “Ag in the Classroom” program is seeking to replicate the Bailey Elementary model at other elementary schools in the district, and in neighboring school systems.