Lake Norman & Mooresville

October workshop sows seeds for school garden success

School gardens offer a chance to learn math in a hands-on way. A class from Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, which has a garden at the school, comes to help with the Urban Ministry Center community garden.
School gardens offer a chance to learn math in a hands-on way. A class from Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, which has a garden at the school, comes to help with the Urban Ministry Center community garden. DON BOEKELHEIDE

Lucy Bradley, N.C. State Cooperative Extension’s Urban Horticulture Specialist, has no doubt about the value of school gardens.

“It seems like no matter what question you ask, ‘school garden’ is the answer,” she said.

Charlotte’s Green Teacher Network is offering a workshop Oct. 24 to support teachers and volunteers interested in school gardens.

Experts will share information on planting vegetables, creating schoolyard habitats for beneficial wildlife and enjoying fresh local harvests. The workshop is open to the general public.

“How do you provide outdoor learning laboratories for children to experiment? School gardens,” Bradley said. “How do you improve children’s health by expanding the variety and quantity of fruits and vegetables they consume? School gardens. How do you get parents engaged in the school? School gardens. In a myriad of profound ways, school gardens are transforming campuses across the state.”

Before coming to N.C. State in 2006, Bradley worked successfully with school and community gardens in Arizona. She enlisted her master gardener volunteers in Phoenix to write a school garden guide book to help teachers and volunteers.

Green Teacher Network’s goal is to advance academics, health and environmental sustainability through school gardens and outdoor learning, and to become a central resource for local teachers and informal educators. The organization places a high value on collaboration.

Partners include UNC Charlotte, CMS, Microsoft, and the Mecklenburg County Health Department, and a growing list of other businesses, public agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Successful gardens require committed and well-trained teachers and volunteers, and the Green Teacher Network training addresses this need.

On Oct. 24, Stephanie Anderson, horticulture and FAA instructor at North Mecklenburg High School, will lead a session on “School Garden Basics: How to plant, transplant, and enrich soils.” Mary Burea and Angel Harding of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation will discuss “Pollinators and Certified School Yard Habitats,” covering the role of wildlife in school gardens.

There will be a slaw cook-off, led by Erin Brighton of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, Katie McCrae, and volunteers from the “Food Corps” national service program.

Green Teacher Network started in the summer 2013 as a project of the Catawba River District, an environmental group with corporate ties created by former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Edna Chirico and her husband, real estate executive John Huber.

Following two years of success with the school program, the two nonprofit groups merged this year as the Green Teacher Network. They currently list just under 100 schools with active gardens on their website.

Don Boekelheide is a freelance writer: unicity3@gmail.com.

Want to go?

What: Green Teacher Network Professional Development Workshop

When: 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Oct. 24

Where: North Mecklenburg High School, 11201 Old Statesville Road, Huntersville

Open to the public, attendance is limited to 100; registration deadline Oct. 22 or when filled. Cost is $15.

For information and registration for the workshop, email echirico@GTNCharlotte.org or call 704-393-4010, www.GTNCharlotte.org.

For information on school gardens, go to www.gardenabcs.com/instructions.html

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