Garden yields varied lessons

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Teacher Carrie Bordelon, left, helps students Garyana Sullivan, Kendall Hayes and Sterling LaBranch, from left put on gloves while preparing to plant potatoes in a garden outside their classroom at Donaldsonville Primary School.
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Teacher Carrie Bordelon, left, helps students Garyana Sullivan, Kendall Hayes and Sterling LaBranch, from left put on gloves while preparing to plant potatoes in a garden outside their classroom at Donaldsonville Primary School.

Primary school teacher Carrie Bordelon used a ruler to show her students how deep to plant potatoes before the children grabbed the tools needed for planting.

“Four inches, remember four inches deep,” she told the dozen Donaldsonville Primary School students as they dug in the earth Feb. 28.

Each student had a potato seedling, trowel and a small stick with their name.

The stick ensured that each student will know which potato he or she planted, Bordelon said.

Watching the planting were Principal Mary McMahan, Donaldsonville Downtown Development District and Mainstreet Executive Director Missy Jandura and Stanford Knockum, education coordinator for the Donaldsonville DDD board and a member of the school’s maintenance crew.

“Look how excited they are about planting potatoes,” McMahan said.

The classroom garden, which also included cabbage, strawberries, carrots, broccoli and radishes, was made possible thanks to two grants from the DDD.

Jandura said grants from Keep Louisiana Beautiful and Volunteer Louisiana allowed her to provide some $800 to the school for its garden.

“We wanted to bring an educational component to the school,” Jandura said.

McMahan said the school used the money to purchase books, supplies, bedding materials and plants.

Bordelon said the students are not only learning about where their food comes from, but also incorporating the lessons they learn in the garden into other daily math, reading, writing and grammar assignments.

Before going into the garden, the students watched a short video about how potatoes grow and proper planting procedures. After the presentation, the students talked about the planting process.

The assignment helped the children improve on verbal and communication skills, McMahan said.

Since starting the garden, the students have harvested lettuce and broccoli.

“You should have seen them walking into my office to bring me lettuce,” McMahan said.

On another day, the students also munched on raw broccoli and a soup made from the broccoli they picked.

After eating the broccoli, the students had to chart which type of preparation they preferred, she said.

“They are very engaged in class thanks to their experiences in the garden,” McMahan said.

“And,when they grow something, they tend to eat it,” she said. “They’re trying new foods that they would never have eaten before.”

The first- and second-graders will also get to take part in the DDD’s Global Youth Service Day program in April, Jandura said.

Global Youth Service Day is the largest day of service event in the world, bringing in millions of youth volunteers to work in service projects all throughout the globe, Jandura said.

“On this day, children and youth throughout the world work together with schools, youth organizations, nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations, government agencies, volunteer and national service programs, and the surrounding community to address critical issues and lead in the way in changing the world,” she said.

The Mainstreet Donaldsonville project will have a youth contingency plant flowers and trees during the Spring Stash the Trash event on April 27.

“We are recruiting scout groups and small church youth groups to participate,” Jandura said. “If you like to get dirty, enjoy the fresh air and have fun with your neighbors, we welcome you with open arms.”

Spring Stash the Trash is from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 April 27. The event will begin at Crescent Park and focus on the Historic District, Jandura said.

Sponsored by Donaldsonville DDD, city of Donaldsonville and Keep Louisiana Beautiful, the annual event encourages area residents to pick up trash along the streets.

“This year we would like extra assistance from adults to help us in cleaning out and recycling items in yards and porches,” Jandura said.

To volunteer, call (225) 323-2555.

April 15 is the final day to register for the cleanup.