Fifth grade students at Gilbert School learned they had a green thumb this year in Indya Pruitt’s science and social studies classes.

The students are using modern agricultural technology to plot and synthesize data to improve yields, while utilizing engineering design process to collaborate, build prototypes and solve problems, Pruitt said.

All the while, her students are learning life skills by working year-around in their school garden.

“Every seed has the potential for a great crop,” Pruitt said. “The students learn how to fertilize, weed and water their plants.They benefit socially and emotionally, and they want to come to school because they want to take care of their plants.”

The garden gives the student’s responsibility with some of them naming their plants, Pruitt said.

The elementary teacher of the year for Franklin Parish uses the garden in her lessons. She focuses on sustainable agriculture while providing her fifth graders fresh, organic produce.

“(The garden) is a way to address the lack of fresh vegetables (in their diet),” Pruitt said.

Throughout the year the garden will contain potatoes, beans, kale, cabbage, radish, greens, squash, zucchini and tomatoes.

“If you plant it, you have to eat it,” Pruitt said.

Students liked to eat potatoes the best and radishes the least.

“The radishes were a little spicy for them,” Pruitt said.

Additionally, students learned the great expanse of the agricultural field.

“The majority of my students have family in the ag industry and can speak the language well,” Pruitt said. “They however, have been limited to believing that agriculture is ‘just farming.’ I wanted them to understand that the industry is evolving, so I began to incorporate technology into our lessons.”

Using ClimateView, a modern farming app, the class mapped the garden. The program allows students to track and synthesize data derived from the garden. They are then tasked to use the engineering data to solve deficiencies within the garden.

“This exposure to technology in agriculture has inspired students to seek out other STEM learning opportunities and has promoted diversity within agriculture,” Pruitt said. “More female and minority students are falling in love with ag.”

Originally a LSU AgCenter Geaux Garden project, Pruitt has gathered local sponsors to continue the garden which is now in its third year. She estimates 50 students a year have gone through the garden program.

Donations to Gilbert School Garden were from Bonnie Plants - donated plants, Ethan Poland, a local farmer - donated water hoses and a fence after stray dogs destroyed the original ones, Franklin Parish Farm Bureau Board of Directors - sponsoring the garden $500, Northeast Soil & Water Conservation District - donated $110 to purchase books to improve agricultural literacy, Home Hardware, Doyal Champlin - donated water hoses and soaker hoses. Colby Ezell, elementary school teacher at Gilbert, helped sponsor the garden. 

Donated windowsill planter boxes were donated, so we were able to share with each science class at Gilbert School

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