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Students, nonprofits help build garden at Arabia Mountain
by LaTria Garnigan
April 08, 2014 10:54 AM | 3815 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students, nonprofits help build garden at Arabia Mountain
Staff / Katherine Frye / 
Arabia Mountain High School seniors Jason Brown, son of Viola Brown, (left) and Jazmyne Stewart, daughter of Yvette Stewart (right) water the herb spiral with Captain Planet.
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Students and staff from Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia, along with volunteers from the Nature Conservancy and the Captain Planet Foundation constructed a school garden last week as part of a school garden partnership.

The school, a magnet and pathway school focused on environmental, energy and engineering education, has been partnered with the conservancy for a couple of years. Principal Rodney Swanson said students who are part of the conservancy have completed internships for the organization during the summers as part of giving back to the community.

“We had about 25 students who were out,” said Swanson of the garden build. “Right now we’re going to plant materials and part of the plan is to give some of those products back to the community. There’s a garden to school project that’s out there and we will participate in that and then, hopefully, we’re going to give some to our cafeteria where we can turn around and feed the kids.”

The students planted seasonal items such as fennel, basil, thyme, rosemary, strawberries, collards and chard. In the next few weeks they will put out tomatoes, peppers and summer vegetables.

Having the students participate in constructing and cultivating the garden is all a part of Arabia Mountain’s curriculum. Swanson said the students take seven classes, but an eighth class meets every four weeks where they integrate the environment into the curriculum.

“The students get to study different themes for different grade levels, and of course we have nature all around us,” he said. “We have outdoor science classrooms as well because we want to integrate the environment into what we do here in the school.”

The conservancy, a global conservation organization started the Nature Works Everywhere Gardens programs to connect students to the global challenge of protecting the natural systems that produce food, water, clean air and energy.

Executive Director Deron Davis said as the world grows and becomes increasingly more complex, that it is going to be very important that the leaders of tomorrow [the students of today] really understand how they impact nature and how nature impacts them.

The work with Arabia Mountain is the first step in the garden program, and the conservancy and the foundation are looking to partner with more schools in the county, which will mostly be middle schools.

“We have almost 100 learning gardens in elementary schools and we are wanting to expand into middle schools,” said Leesa Carter, executive director of the foundation.

Arabia Mountain is the first school the foundation has worked with, and Davis said it will act as a mentoring facility for the middle schools that will soon receive their own gardens.

“Our original vision was that they would be middle schools whose students can feed into Arabia Mountain since it’s a magnet school,” he said. “Also, the kids from Arabia could go with us to those middle schools and work with the students on installing gardens.”

Carter said applications are still open if middle schools would like to apply for consideration of a school garden through the end of April at www.captainplanetfoundation.org.

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