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Teacher taps gardening to win grant


Staff Writer

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South Central Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher Jill Leonard may be purchasing Chromebooks with the Quality Educational Support for Tomorrow grant she was awarded, but she’s also implementing one of the world’s oldest and most well-known practices—gardening.

Leonard is one of six teachers in Washington County to receive part of the $17,927 QUEST grant. The grant offers funds for educational projects and items the school system might not have readily available. Now Leonard will use her $2,776.60 to buy five Chromebooks and  landscaping materials for her “Learning by Growing in Our Kinder-‘garden’” project.

“For many years I have had the idea to secure funding for a gardening project,” Leonard said. “I love to do gardening projects with my students and wanted to help them learn on a larger scale than just planting in containers inside the class.”

Leonard said the Chromebooks will be used to explore kid-friendly websites and apps in order for the students to design their gardening project. However, for Leonard and her students, the project also has a larger importance.

“This project is important because it can offer students in a high poverty school the opportunity for learning about material that can help them in their future,” Leonard explained.

“By learning more about gardening and plant life cycles they can understand this information as a future career endeavor and they can also use the information to help provide food for their families by growing gardens at home.”

Not only does Leonard hope the project has a positive effect on her students, but she also wants to grow her project into the community just like the seeds that will soon be planted at South Central Elementary School.

“Students are always so excited when we work on the plant life cycle and the more opportunities that I can provide for them to use all their senses within the lessons, the more knowledge and understanding they will have the opportunity to gain,” Leonard said.

“My hope is that we can partner with DCHS Ag Department and other interested gardeners or business partners to grow this into a community outreach program and expand this for an opportunity for other classes to use this garden space as a learning tool too.”

Once the kindergarten teacher realized her planting provisions were secured, the celebration began for her—and her students.

“I was actually pumping my arms and cheering in my classroom alone! Then I went into the hall to find someone to celebrate with,” Leonard said. “The day I left school for the awarding, I told my students where I was going. They began to jump and cheer when I told them we had won some money to make a garden outside in our science space.”

“Then I told them how much we won and they were all saying ‘Oh my gosh!’ and hugging each other. It was great and I wish now that I had videoed them. It was priceless!”