There's something truly therapeutic about thrusting your hands into warm soil, pulling weeds, artfully placing seeds and plants, watering and grooming for weeks, and then finally harvesting. A group of bright and energetic elementary school students experienced this and more over their summer break as they maintained their very own salsa garden.
Scranton Elementary School began their journey with the garden in May 2016. Students and their teachers transferred peppers, tomatoes, onions and cilantro into two large planter boxes in the hope they would flourish over the summer.
And flourish they did! Scranton Elementary teachers said their students literally "took over" the garden, watering, fertilizing and weeding weekly. By the fourth week into the program, they had harvested 54 bell peppers and 50 banana peppers!
When students weren't in the garden, they were taking field trips to learn even more gardening tips to apply in their garden. One field trip was to Moore Farms Botanical Garden to taste fresh vegetables and herbs such as purple basil, oregano, thyme, onions and tomatoes.
They also had the opportunity to hop in the AG Combine Simulator, an interactive mobile educational display unit provided by the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation that allows users to harvest virtual row crops through the magic of audio visuals in the cab of a real agricultural combine. Participants who "ride' in the combine cab see and hear how SC's farmers harvest a variety of crops.
Their final field trip was to Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens. While there, students saw plants in different habitats and learned how they adapt to their environments. They also visited the Zoo's own vegetable garden.
The students participated in projects and lessons that helped them hone their reading, math and science skills all while learning about gardening. The students researched and created plant cell models; created their very own stepping stones using stained glass and concrete; churned fresh butter; learned how to make paper using recycled scraps; and made edible soil models using chocolate cookies, chips and pudding with gummy worms and sprinkles.
They even became inventors, creating a tool to help gardeners and farmers, and presenting their ideas through PowerPoint presentations and posters. Some genius ideas emerged, such as an automatic weed puller and a 3-way shovel. Students also designed their summer program t-shirts.
In addition, students researched the crops they planted, and recorded information in summer gardening journals about harvesting and pests that affect plant growth. They also researched gardening practices in other countries. The students worked in groups, chose a country such as Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Madagascar, and explored its language, location, religion, crops and government. Additionally they explored regional foods by dining on figs, guacamole, falafels and hummus.
The summer gardening program concluded July 27, 2016 with a salsa making fiesta! Students and teachers proudly displayed their bountiful harvest of tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs. Teachers set up multiple stations for children to rotate between so each of them could experience the different stages of making fresh salsa:
While making salsa, students learned to properly use knives and chop even pieces, as well as how to use different measuring utensils and operate a food processor. After their mason jars were full of yummy, fresh salsa, students manned decorating stations to add decorative paper, twine and glitter to their jars before sharing them with friends and family.
The summer gardening program at Scranton Elementary School was made possible by a group of local businesses, including McCall Farms. One of America’s leading producers of farm fresh canned vegetables and fruit, McCall Farms has been cultivating food for more than 177 years. The family-owned and operated company produces a wide variety of Southern-style products, to include Bruce's Yams.