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Students design garden to help others

Pike County Middle School seventh graders worked together to meet the needs of food insecure students and families in Pike County over summer and school breaks by planting and harvesting their own community garden at the school. According to PCMS agriculture teacher Shane Moore, the concept is called design thinking and he worked with teacher Stephanie Richardson to challenge students to change the world for others. PCMS students saw the need of others in the school system and decided to use local agricultural resources to help provide food for those in need. ’Through a tremendous amount of brain storming and the discovery of new ideas, the students were really beginning to build a heartfelt empathy for those who may go home over extended breaks and not have enough nutritious food to eat,’ said Moore. ‘The students really surprised me with their level of empathy for other students in our school. We don’t always get to see that side of our students, but this design challenge really seemed to engage them while opening them up to see things differently.’ Eventually students came up with a question to address the situation – ‘How can we meet the needs of food insecure students in Pike County over summer and school breaks, utilizing the agricultural resources in and around Pike County?’ They began to experiment with different models and ideas in order to address the issue of food insecurity in PCMS. Through experimentation, the students eventually solidified what they wanted to produce. The students researched which plants to plant at which time of year. They researched soil requirements and they interviewed local farmers in collaboration with Farm Bureau. Akins Feed and Seed in Griffin donated all of the plants and seeds for their project. A local farmer, Will Godowns, donated the irrigation equipment that was utilized. The group of design thinking students – also known as design challenge – decided they wanted to plant a fall garden in order to produce food for food insecure families at PCMS. ’Not only did they want to plant the garden to address food insecurity, but the garden has yielded a tremendous amount of produce and is continuing to be a great success,’ said Moore. ‘However, the students wanted a backup plan as well. The students have been running a can food drive at PCMS as their backup plan and that has been a great addition to the produce coming from the garden.’ The garden was planted with broccoli, lettuce, kale, collards greens, mustard greens and onions. The students also used a portion of the greenhouse to grow tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and Habanero peppers. Students also put together easy recipes for the foods and they are distributed with with the produce that goes out to local families. ’The students are really grabbing hold of this design challenge and owning it,’ said Moore. ‘The Pike County School System wants to develop creative problem solvers this is the application of creative problem solving that goes far beyond the walls of a school building.’

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