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franklin county times

Garden provides teaching tool

Ramona Roberson knows the value of educational activities that function outside of the box.

Roberson is the director of the S.P.A.N. (Special Programming for Achievement Network) Program for Franklin County, which is a program for at-risk youth.

A lot of times, these students need activities that will challenge them in ways that normal school activities may not, so the decision to implement a vegetable garden at their facilities for the second year in a row was a no-brainer.

“We had a garden at the school last year thanks to a grant from the RC&D Council,” Roberson said. “They made the boxes for the plants to grow in, supplied us with the dirt and bought the seeds for the plants.

“The students really enjoyed being able to take ownership over the garden and to see the fruits of their labor. We had BLT sandwiches made with our tomatoes, and the students experienced first-hand how rewarding it can be to work hard at something.”

When it came time to plant a garden this year, grant funding wasn’t available, but Roberson thought the project was worth continuing anyway.

“We decided to cover the expense and keep the garden because of the lessons our students can learn from it,” she said. “Keeping these plants alive teaches them responsibility, it teaches them the importance of a good work ethic and it teaches them the value of eating healthy, nutritious food.”

Roberson said it didn’t hurt that the project was also fun.

“Our students really seem to enjoy taking care of the garden each day,” she said. “It’s something they look forward to.”

The group that currently oversees the garden comes from S.P.A.N. counselor Jamie Harris’ group, who agreed that being part of this project has been good for them.

“I like doing this because it’s fun,” one student said. “It’s a good bonding experience for us and something we can say we accomplished together.”

“This has been a good learning experience because I think we have learned something new every day,” another student added. “I’ve learned some gardening tips and I like to help my grandparents a little with their garden now.”

Harris said he was proud of how the students had embraced the project.

“I can see every day how much they enjoy watching the garden grow and become something worthwhile,” he said. “There’s a lot of growing going on out here and the rewarding part is that it’s not just the plants.”