Third-graders at W.J. Gurganus Elementary School didn’t exactly enjoy the fruits of their labor. Instead, they enjoyed the cucumbers, carrots, squash and lettuce they grew in their garden.
Students in Ashley Alicea’s third-grade class celebrated the harvest of their garden by eating the bounty it produced during a special garden party last week at the school.
Alicea came up with the concept of having the students grow a garden and acquired the needed materials through a Bright Ideas grant from the Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative Foundation.
Thom Styron, president of the Carteret-Craven Board of Directors, and Arland Bell, past president, were invited guests.
"This is what we need in education, excited students," Styron said as students Nazyer Martinez and Lily Lentz took the pair on a tour of the garden located outside Alicea’s classroom. "You see the enthusiasm they have when it comes to learning. You see the light bulbs come on."
The project also helped grow the minds of the young students.
"I thought it was pretty cool learning how plants live and how you have to take care of them," Lentz said. "The plant grows better when you put all your hard work into it."
Each student got to plant one or two items in the garden and then tended to the plants as they grew. They had to determine the right amount of water to add and learned the hard way not to plant items until after the final frost of winter.
"If it got brown leaves, you had to pick them off," Martinez said. "It’s using energy and wasting energy trying to make it come back to life."
Alicea said the students greeted the project with enthusiasm, wanting to go outside each day just to see how much the plants grew overnight.
"It’s been so fun to watch the whole process," she said. "They were so excited, and it’s so nice to watch them be so excited."
Alicea said she came up with the idea for the garden after attending a project-based workshop last summer and applied for the Bright Ideas grant in the fall.
"Otherwise, I would not have been able to afford to do all of it," she said.
Part of the project involved the students blogging and providing website updates on the progress of the garden.
"The technology was a big part of it, which is part of project-based learning, using those 21st-century skills," Alicea said. "That was one of our driving questions. How can we use technology to document the whole process? By using technology, they were able to show their progress and show their knowledge."
Alicea said the students used math to measure water and chart plant growth.
"Every day they were doing something," she said. "If there was a problem, they would come in and Google it, so they did a lot of problem-solving and used good teamwork.
"It was an amazing experience for me and for them. It was a learning experience for us all. And it was so nice to see the kids so excited about it."