Growing Greatness in RISD
Richardson ISD students are leaning firsthand the value of hard work, breaking a sweat and getting a little dirty. Across the district, school gardens are thriving, gaining popularity and bringing together students with community members.
School gardens are currently installed in 23 schools throughout Richardson ISD. These outdoor learning areas exist to cultivate a respect for the earth and the food-growth process, contribute to a healthy lifestyle, and encourage students and teachers to take the classroom outside.
Moss Haven Elementary School teacher, Beth Heath, believes that “the farm is a bundle of joy for our students and provides them with a wealth of information and hands-on learning for math, science, and real-world experiences!” Children tend to learn best when they’re actively engaged in experiential lessons and a school garden provides countless opportunities for different types of learning.
Learning gardens can serve as a living laboratory where exciting real-world applications of STEM subjects are taught, plus they have a direct impact in the classroom. Classroom lessons are continuously reinforced in a real world, outdoor setting and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are incorporated into farm teaching plans and activities.
Math and science are natural tie-ins with farming and gardening concepts. “Students can calculate area and perimeter of garden plots, measure height of plants, and utilize scientific design and methods — practice hypothesis, investigation, reasoning, and drawing conclusions,” said Heath. “I also create problems in my class each week and include farm/plant information to make them more real-world so the kids can relate. This is all in real-time, versus simply having them look at a picture of a concept in a textbook.”
Chickens also be found on a couple of the campus farms. Students at Moss Haven take part in an after school 4H Club and the farm is home to a custom chicken coop for the Egg Laying and Hatching Poultry Program. Their flock has won several ribbons from both the State Fair of Texas and North Texas Poultry Showcase.
Health and nutrition play a huge role in the campus gardens. Students are taught the importance of eating a rainbow of foods and how making healthy choices now will impact them for the rest of their lives. Many of the vegetables grown in the Moss Haven farm are also used in a school cafeteria salad bar. “If the kids grow it, they will eat it!” said Farmer Kim Aman, Moss Haven Farm Program Director.
The Moss Haven Growing for Giving Garden provides students an opportunity to serve others. High yield crops are donated to the North Texas Food Bank, plus students are able to take home the fruits of their labor. The garden teaches students that learning, hard work, and rewards go hand in hand.
Farmer Kim believes “that a garden levels the playing field. Kids that may be a top student in the classroom might not be the best in the garden. Getting in the dirt and working hard allows all kids to shine!”