By Aryanna Zavala, Copy Editor
A gardening class has been added as an elective choice for students in Kennedy’s Special Education department. Robin Gunning and Chloe Stidger are the instructors who supervise the class, and Gunning says, “it has been our students who have been doing so much of the work.” According to Branden Bridges, a JFK student and a teaching assistant for the special education program, the purpose of the class is “to expand the students’ learning and sustain an environmental conscience food source.”
The addition of the gardening class expands the existing electives that students get to choose from, which are fine art, music, physical education, and culinary. The class and club share the garden and take care of it, so that it continues to flourish and look green and healthy throughout the year.
The garden class gives the students a chance to establish new life skills, such as self-sustainability, science, and business. The goal for Gunning and Stidger this year is to show the students a different way of living and supporting themselves. They hope to teach the students about “micro-businesses and the whole farm-to-fork movement, [we plan] to put up a greenhouse,” said Gunning.
They will also begin growing crops, such as squash, pumpkins, asparagus, etc., in January, so by March they will be sprouting and the students will get the chance to plant them and watch them grow throughout the year. “They get to see the process: from seed, to plant, to harvest,” said Gunning. They will get hands-on experience and will also get to witness the vegetation growing throughout the school year. On top of learning about plant cells and the process of how they grow, students will now get to see it with their own eyes instead of seeing it in pictures and under microscopes.
Gunning and Stidger have seen an improvement in the students. Stidger stated that the students tend to disagree over things but when they get taken out to the garden they work together and get along. The students are learning teamwork by going out and working together to get tasks done. Stidger says, “The end goal is for the students to be self-sufficient.”
Additional funds outside the school budget were needed to start the program. The students plan to raise money for the class and the program by selling the vegetation in the parking lot. “If the class yields enough [crops], the class plans to sell their produce to the culinary program or start a fruit stand.” says Bridges. The small farmer’s market that will be held when they harvest the vegetation will teach the students micro-businesses and how to manage money.
Bridges explains that the school once had a greenhouse, although it was removed because, “it had the tendency to blow over.” Bridges plans on reinstalling the greenhouse and making it more sturdy and secure. He has already provided the program with a handmade mailbox that acted as a ‘free library,’ holding gardening books and a list of all the plants currently growing. With his help, the class has an agreement with JROTC to expand the garden and improve it for future generations.