Innovative teachers receive school garden funding

By Margie Mansure (

Article Published: Apr. 10 | Modified: Apr. 10
Innovative teachers receive school garden funding

From left, Chris Grassinger, Jessica Gilway, Dani Destiche, Mary Scott and Tara Stollenmaier stand by the Two Rivers Community School garden, funding for which came from High Country Local First’s Farm to School program.

Photo submitted

School gardens engage students by providing a dynamic environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture and learn.

Gardens are living laboratories where interdisciplinary lessons are drawn from real experiences.

Thanks to a Farm to School fund created by High Country Local First, teachers at Valle Crucis Elementary and Two Rivers Community School will be able to enrich gardening experiences for their classrooms.

Sarah Herman and Laura Carter at Valle Crucis Elementary are creative in teaching the common core and N.C. essential standards through a hands-on approach with their first-grade students. For example, students learn about measurement when laying out the garden and spacing plants and rows. In planting red leaf and green leaf lettuce, they learn about patterns by growing them. Science is explored through observing germination, pollination, bees, worms and birds. Soil types and qualities will be remembered after tactile experiences.

Funding for the Valle Crucis garden will allow for the purchase of a cold frame to extend the growing season, tools, seeds, seedlings, pots and soil.

Two Rivers Community School garden coordinator Dani Destiche applied for funding to enrich their commitment to outdoor education and hands-on, project based, real world learning opportunities. First-, third- and sixth-grade classes focus on garden journaling, plant experiments, identifying plants and their parts and soil science. They enjoy what they harvest with events, such as potato and onion bakes and salsa parties.

Funding for the Two Rivers garden will allow for the purchase of seeds and seedlings, curriculum materials, replacement of hand tools and a small garden coordinator stipend.

There has been a great deal of research supporting the benefits of school gardening programs. Results from studies include increased science achievement scores, improved social skills and behavior and development of appreciation and respect for nature that lasts a lifetime. Additionally, when children grow vegetables, they are willing to taste and enjoy them, resulting in consumption of a healthier diet.

Nonprofit High Country Local First started a Farm to School grant fund by contributing $5 from every reward card that was purchased for 2012-13. New cards will be available soon and valid June 1, 2014, to May 30, 2015. At just $20, card holders receive benefits, such as ongoing discounts and special members-only offers. For more information on the Farm to School grant program, contact them at ( or by visiting

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email, or call (828) 264-3061.

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