Release: McGary Middle School goes green

EVANSVILLE, Ind. —Nearly 100 students, teachers, and community volunteers helped  hammer, shovel and landscape McGary Middle School’s open space into a community garden today. The National Education Association’s Priority Schools Campaign and the Evansville Teachers Association collaborated to help sponsor the community garden project.

Students explored community issues and identified hunger and the lack of healthy food choices as a major concern, especially for low-income families. The idea for a community garden sprouted following the students’ research and many classroom conversations.

“Working to create great public schools for every child sometimes means we must go beyond the classroom and school to find meaningful partnerships,” said ETA President Keith Gambill. “This project is a great way to make school subjects come alive for students and it’s a great way for our educators to teach nearly every subject covered in the classroom.”

NEA’s Green Across America initiative donated $3,500 to help fund the community garden. Much needed fresh fruits and vegetables will be grown in the garden and sold below market rate to community residents and donated to area food banks that serve low-income families.  NEA’s Green Across America is an initiative that supports educators and their students to provide a healthy learning and working environment.

Fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t the only crop the new community garden will yield; McGary students will use inter-disciplinary study this summer to research healthy foods and the community’s access to those foods, as well as learn the process for distributing and packaging items. This fall, McGary students and educators will open the “Pioneer Produce Stand.”

“We realized that if our students did not have a voice in the classroom, they would disengage from their own education,” said Mary Schweizer, principal of McGary Middle School. “Selecting a project that related to our educational standards helped students connect the dots to how science, math and reading influenced the concept, design and creation of the community garden—as well as the long term benefits to the community.”

Major work today included the construction of the greenhouse and the creation of instructional learning space. Paving stones set the foundation for the greenhouse, which will bear corn, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peppers, strawberries and grapes. Volunteers also focused their efforts on instructional learning space for students. This space will be used to take classroom instruction into the courtyard during those warm spring and summer days where students and educators will be able to enjoy the natural light and fresh air.

“It’s so important that we engage the community in the very important work of educating our children and giving them skills that are important for a lifetime,” said Cathy Gray, associate superintendent of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation. “Our educators and students work hard every year and they deserve an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.”

“This is a phenomenal project,” said Tommie Leaders, NEA Student Program chair. “It allows us to directly connect with students and show them how much we—as the community—care about their success.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

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