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Project-Based Learning Garden at the Center for Innovative Teaching in Winder

Andie Bisceglia, USDA Grant Program Coordinator

In late 2017 GIKI was awarded a USDA grant to fund a pilot program in Barrow county. One part of our work in Barrow county has been an exciting partnership with the Arts and Innovation Magnet school at the Center for Innovative Teaching in Winder (also known as CFIT).  CFIT is a public magnet school that just opened this year in an old, remodeled school building. They house two 5th grade and two 6th grade classes who integrate arts, robotics, and farm to school programming into their everyday learning.

Our Barrow County AmeriCorps VISTA, Josh, and I (Andie) have been working with their teachers and director to plan and teach their farm to school curriculum since the beginning of the school year. It has been a treat to work with this school, and we’ve enjoyed having students involved in the entire garden planning, design, building and installation process. We began the year with students learning about plant needs of sun, soil, water, and air. Here, you see them practicing their “soil smudge” skills to determine the colors of different soils in their courtyard.

Through this first lesson on plant needs, they also learned that most fruits and vegetables need at least 8 hours of sunlight. So in our next lesson, students determined where the sunniest part of their courtyard is by flagging the outline of shadows cast in the courtyard by the building and crepe myrtle trees. Each class came out to mark the shadows every hour, on the hour to see how they elongate, shorten, and migrate over the course of the day.

Students then got to use measuring tapes to measure the circumference of the courtyard, the area of the shadows, and make a scale drawing to design their ideal school garden. Their garden design included raised beds, a pollinator are, composting station, and woodchip paths.

Students got to work on their own individual plans, and then worked together to come up with one master garden plan for each class. Then the whole school participated in a consensus building process by which they determined one final garden plan that incorporated favorite aspects from each class design.

Then, on Tuesday, October 23rd, we had a garden celebration and installation day, where parents, teachers, students, and the VISTAs all helped students put together raised beds, fill them with soil and make a woodchip pathway around the raised beds.

One of the unique aspects of the students’ garden design, is that they decided to orient the beds with the cardinal directions, with the long side of the bed facing south so to allow for the most sun exposure to the plants. Here in this photo below, a student holds a compass in order to help get the beds oriented in the right direction.

Next, we will be working with CFIT to develop and teach weekly garden lessons and start them on a school wide composting program modeled after our work here in Clarke county.  Stay tuned to see how our year progresses at CFIT!