Clarke Middle School, located in Athens, Georgia, is constantly evolving as a sustainable school. Programming around gardening, FFA, sustainability and the local/organic movement have existed for a number of years with the dedication of many staff members as well as the buy-in from district administrators and, most importantly, the students. Our group of chickens provide the Agricultural Sciences classes with fresh eggs to make omelletes that also incorporate fresh vegetables from our garden beds. Unwanted food items such as juice cartons and bananas are delivered to our Food and Consumer Sciences teacher who uses them in cooking labs which cuts down on waste and expenses. We compost and recycle during all lunch periods and there are student volunteers who help to keep this programming running each day.
Clarke Middle School hosts the summer camp program known as the Kitchen Garden Corps in which Athens-Clarke County middle school students participate in daily farm chores including harvesting produce, caring for livestock and cooking with fresh, local produce. Each Thursday participants and the adult supervisors create a pop-up restaurant that highlights in-season produce and it is open to all community members.
If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved or has a question/comment/suggestion please send Rosemary Gay an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet Your VISTA!
In February, Rosemary Gay took over Julia Calder’s place as the AmeriCorps School Garden VISTA at Clarke Middle. Rosemary, who graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in Latin American studies and agroecology and sustainable development, is looking forward to working with the students, families, faculty and staff at Clarke to make the garden an inclusive and exciting space. Check out the Q&A below to get to know her better.
Q: What made you want to become a VISTA?
A: I had been buying my vegetables at Clarke Middle for about six months before I started here, and I thought that it was a really awesome program. I was really impressed that UGA was getting involved in Clarke County Schools this way, and I came and volunteered in the garden and said, “Oh my goodness, that’s my dream job!”
Q: What are you most excited about from what you have seen at Clarke?
A: I am most excited about trying to make the garden a multicultural space–that is my number one thing…and learning how to manage the goats. I have never worked with goats before so that’s been a fun learning curve.
Q: What does a multicultural space look like to you?
A: We talk about the idea of safe spaces and bully-free zones a lot. It’s a space where food that we are growing and the way that we prepare it in our classrooms and afterschool programs represents a variety of cultures and honors all of our students’ really incredible and diverse backgrounds and practices at home. It is a space where students–especially those with an international background or who come from other countries–feel proud to speak their native language in the garden instead of feeling like it’s an English-dominated culture here.
Q: What is your favorite memory from middle school?
A: A good memory from middle school would probably be the trip that we took to DC. Trips and changes of scenery have a really big impact on you when you are growing up, so that’s why having a garden and goats outside will ultimately be a memory for these students.
Q; If you were a vegetable, which would you be and why?
A: I am going to say okra because you get to wear that cute little hat, and I just love seeds…and summer is my favorite season.
Q: What would you like parents to know about you and what you are doing here?
A: I am really approachable, and I really want to hear from them. I would be super excited to have them involved in any way that they want to be, and I really value their feedback on what they want this middle school and our programming to look like.
About me, I want them to know that I speak Spanish (habla español), so if that is the language they are most comfortable in, they can always speak to me in Spanish.
Peace and Carrots! ✌?