ELEANOR, W.Va. -- In a multi-purpose room at Putnam County's George Washington Elementary, Olivia Faulkner, 7, gestures excitedly at a diagram of the water cycle.
"When water gets really hot, it evaporates," she says, her finger following an arrow to a crayon cloud. "Precipitation is when it falls down into the soil. Either on our heads or in the soil ..."
Down the hallway, fifth-graders Mackenzie Call and Kayla Keblesh tell their friends how plants reproduce and grow.
"Plants use xylem to move materials like sugar up, and they use phloem to move materials like sugar toward the roots," Keblesh explains.
Outside, 9-year-old Riley Long hoists a freshly uprooted turnip in the air for his teachers to see.
"Look!" he says.
Riley's turnip was grown in the elementary school's new high tunnel, the most recent addition to the school's curriculum -- and its menu.
GW Elementary held an open house Thursday morning for parents and the community to see the recently constructed high tunnel, a type of temporary greenhouse made of polyethylene that holds heat from the sun. Students in kindergarten through the fifth grade have spent weeks cultivating peas, beets, cabbage, lettuce, carrots and other "cool-weather" vegetables currently in season.
Chuck Talbot, the West Virginia University Extension Service agriculture and natural resources agent for Putnam County, said this project is the first of its kind in the county, and he hopes the hands-on experience will spark a greater interest in learning and health with the children.
"Everyone knows our specialty crop is actually our kids," Talbot said. "That's how I approach it. This is the time to get them excited and to cultivate that interest. A lot of these kids are taking this home; they're starting their own gardens with their parents."