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Growing The Future: Kid Horticulturists Sprout Up Worldwide

Teach your kids to garden instead of having them sit in front of a TV screen. Teach your kids to garden instead of having them sit in front of a TV screen.

This year, the entire school district in Dunwoody, Georgia, a suburb of North Atlanta, implemented an integrated gardening program in all eight of their schools. This program, which was started after a student-led movement that encouraged the district to see how exciting gardening can be, has found a lot of support among students at all of the schools. Grow Dunwoody is one of a series of projects worldwide where kids are getting involved in horticulture, and it looks like this trend is just getting started.

Grow Dunwoody is a project comprising eight organic gardens, where K-12 students create a variety of produce while attending class. Fruits, vegetables and herbs are all grown and harvested for use in school projects or donated to local food banks.

The Grow Dunwoody project is integrated into the curriculum through various courses in science, health, and special education, allowing almost all students an opportunity to learn about the benefits of gardening and locally-grown produce for the environment and our health. The raised-bed gardens are 100 percent organic, including the wood they used, which is pest-resistant cedar instead of treated wood.

The $85,000 cost to start and maintain Grow Dunwoody for four years has come completely from donations made by local and nationwide organizations like Advanced Nutrients, The Dunwoody Nature Center, Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper, and The National Wildlife Federation, just to name a few. The students that run Grow Dunwoody hope that their exciting program can keep going long after that initial four years with the help of donations from other nonprofit groups, businesses, and individuals.

Dunwoody isn't the only city in the US to encourage young people to get involved in horticulture with a sophisticated garden integrated into one of its schools. At Richmond Senior High School in Richmond, North Carolina, students have raised the funds to buy themselves a huge stand-alone greenhouse to replace their tiny, cramped, classroom-addition greenhouse area, which was too hot and outdated to grow optimal plants.

Whether it's traditional soil-based gardening or advanced hydroponic systems, the idea that students across the world are graduating high school with an education in the means and benefits of growing their own food and flowers is great.

The “Jaderloon Greenhouse” is a $50,000, 30-foot by 50-foot master level greenhouse that allows the students to automate the watering, heating, and air circulation of their crops. The students sell the finished product to local people, generating income that will allow them to keep the greenhouse operating and also expand their grow to include hydroponics. "Once we raise the funds, we're going to get a system that will allow us to grow plants in a soil-less environment," said Doug Carter, the horticulture instructor at Richmond High. "It's possible to grow plants in water, air, sand, or pea gravel." And many other mediums, as we growers already know.

In New Zealand, a 13-year-old student did not wait for her school to introduce her to gardening. Clara van Wel from the Marlborough Girls College beat out 291 other projects to win a local science fair with her detailed hydroponic experiment, which looked at how much influence light wattage has on lettuce growth. (Answer: it's a lot. The lettuce that received little light died at about two inches high, while the lettuce with a lot of light got to be a foot tall in less than two months.)

The judges were particularly impressed with van Wel's use of an experiment topic that was current and expandable to the real world, where hydroponic gardening is a growing industry - no pun intended - with incredible potential to do good for the planet. It was a lot of fun, but a bit of concern to her family. "We were worried the police were going to come and investigate. There was this black tarpaulin and growing lights going on for almost two months, but I'd just like to point out that there is nothing mysterious going on here."

There is definitely a positive trend happening with kids developing green thumbs. Whether it's traditional soil-based gardening or advanced hydroponic systems, the idea that students across the world are graduating high school with an education in the means and benefits of growing their own food and flowers is great. Many of us in the industry didn't get started until we were already adults, so getting an education in horticulture while still in high school, junior high, or even elementary school will be a big advantage for Rosebud Magazine's future readers.

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Looking to get started in hydroponics gardening? Read Hydro 101 with Deonna Marie.

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Another fine example of educating children about growing.
Last modified on Monday, 16 July 2012 17:18

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