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Pinecrest Elementary’s Vegetation Station: more than just a garden

SYLACAUGA, Ala. – At Pinecrest Elementary School in Sylacauga a garden is planted called the ‘Vegetation Station.’ On the surface it seems to be like any other small garden. But simply calling it a ‘garden’ is selling it short.

Like most gardens, it features peas, sweet potatoes, squash and many other vegetables and fruits. However, the magic of the garden is what goes on behind the scenes.

The garden was established in 2012 because of a dream by Bill and Pam Roberts. The couple wanted to incorporate more activities into the daily lives of students at Pinecrest Elementary students. Over time, the garden has grown thanks to grant money, donations from local businesses, and volunteer work.

The most special part of the garden is how willingly involved third, fourth and fifth grade students are in its growth. This is something third grade teacher and Garden Committee chair Amy O’Neal is very excited about. She told the school initiated the Watch Us Grow Garden Club this school year and it already has 80 members which meet on Wednesday afternoons every week.

These students’ roles are not limited in the garden. Many are well on their way to becoming master gardeners. O’Neal said students are in charge of maintaining the garden and planting, watering and harvesting all produce in the garden. During the process, students also learn about more than the produce itself.

“The students learn a lot about life and work ethic,” said O’Neal. “They see their work produce results, and I think that is a valuable lesson to learn at a young age.”

Once the crop is reaped, it is used in the school. Last fall, the garden produced enough sweet potatoes to feed the entire student body. The garden serves more than just students at lunch. O’Neal said the garden serves at as safe haven for special needs students and gives them an opportunity to get outdoors and learn life functioning skills through gardening.

The future of the garden seems to be bright. It has already seen four new raised beds which are fully planted with fruits and vegetables, and more are coming in the future. It is also equipped with new patio furniture. A fully functional green house and summer program are on the horizon. O’Neal plans for the garden to be a year-round project for students, and she believes there are enough kids committed to the garden to make the dream come true.

Bigger things could come from the garden in the future. For now, the ‘Vegetation Station’ will remain a haven for all students to not only learn gardening skills that could potentially be used in the future but also to learn lessons that can change students’ lives.

Jeremy Law for | © 2017, City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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