Horticulture Club offers students first-hand learning

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Hodgenville Elementary students learn by working in school garden

By Ron Benningfield

Some students at Hodgenville Elementary School are learning botany and some biology firsthand as members of the school’s horticulture club.

The students have a small garden outside adviser Ashley Puckett’s classroom where they have grown several types of vegetables – tomatoes, squash, zucchini, as well as several varieties of flowers including sunflowers.

“I began leading the club last year,” Puckett said. “Becky Hawkins (a teaching colleague) led the club about three years before me.”

Puckett, with the guidance of Vickie Devers, community education director, wrote a service learning mini grant and received almost $500 to purchase supplies for a class garden. The 30-foot by 16-foot space formerly had been a playground area.

Melissa Pearman, Hodgenville Family Resource Center coordinator, sponsors the horticulture club that also tends the garden. Her center provided $250 in supplies and also awarded a stipend to Puckett to lead the club.

“Last spring, with money from the resource center, we purchased the dirt and started the garden,” she said.

Fourth grade students in her room and other club members, mostly third and fifth graders, planted seeds.

Over the summer break, Puckett enlisted the help of her own children, Keaton, 9, Ryan Brooke, 4, and Emma Kate, 2, to control the weeds, nurture and harvest the plants.

“Since school has started, some kids and teachers have picked tomatoes during recess,” she said. “We didn’t sell any produce, but we’ve given a lot of tomatoes away, and this week our club is learning how to make salsa.”

Club members also visited Jeremy Hinton’s orchard where they heard him speak about his apple trees. Jill Gray, the county’s solid waste coordinator, discussed composting.

“My class had previously participated in her composting workshop, and we still had worms at work, so she used some of the worms we already had to start a new composting bin,” said Puckett. “At the end of the school year, we used the worms and compost around our tomato plants in the garden.”

The kids seemed to love the work involved.

Jacob Sandidge said, “It was fun to spread the bags of soil and to learn about all the different kinds of apples at Hinton’s Orchard.”

Another member, Wyatt Pearman, said, “I liked planting the vegetables and flowers in our garden and planting the sunflower seeds.”

The club usually meets on Wednesdays, logging 20 after-school hours during the school year. Puckett hopes to mix in more fall and winter activities this year.  The 25 members will take after-school field trips to Hinton’s Orchard and Lee’s Garden Center.

“We would like to plant some seeds inside to transplant later,” she said.  “We visited the high school greenhouse last year and they donated all of our flowers and vegetable plants.” 

“We plan to plant bulbs, to harvest and dry our sunflower heads so that we can use the seeds for birds,” she said. “In the spring we will plant more vegetables, flowers and sunflowers.”