O’FALLON – The life skills class at Fulton Junior High is helping students appreciate growing and cooking their own food, and helping students to gain knowledge about harvesting seeds for sale.
Teacher Sue Black spoke about the state of the garden at Fulton that spurred her to build it back up. “It was pretty much just weeds and I couldn’t stand it. I have a garden at home and I just started bringing plants in,” she said.
Black decided she wanted to add some vegetables to the garden to give the life skills class some fresh ingredients they can use in their cooking instruction. “I got leftover cucumbers, squash seeds, and tomato plants on sale. They started using these in the kitchen and started thinking bigger, about more vegetables that they can cook in class,” she said. The O’Fallon Garden Club also donated some plants that were leftover from their plant sales.
In addition to the vegetables, the class harvests seeds that they package and sell. The seeds that are sold are from cleome and milkweed plants, which are most well known for attracting butterflies. Students measure out a teaspoon of seeds, about 70 seeds, and put them into packets that the classes make from recycled scratch paper. The packets are one dollar each and the money raised from selling the seeds is used to purchase more garden supplies, such as tomato cages, soaker hoses, more seeds, and more.
“The students plan what they want to garden and harvest and take into consideration germination time. Some of these kids may not reap the benefits when they go to eighth grade, but some of them will get to come back and see what they’ve got growing,” Black said.
Black also mentioned that the students enjoy using fresh oregano and basil and making homemade salsa that comes from garden ingredients, saying “They get a kick out of the fresh smell, and they say that things taste different and better than store-bought. They’re much more excited about vegetables since they watch them ripen and grow.”
The garden is maintained by the life skills class, along with Black and other Fulton staff, and other students. “NHS students come to help every Thursday. Our garden time is part instruction, part time in the garden, so there’s still plenty to do,” Black said.
She mentioned that ultimate plans for the garden include having it plowed and made to be wheelchair accessible. The class would also like to add some fruit trees.
For information about how you can help the life skills class and their garden project, contact Fulton Junior High at (618) 628-0090.