Talbot received a Specialty Crop Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture worth $12,000 and approached several schools before GW Elementary agreed to pilot the program. Several state and national mandates, including the Feed to Achieve Act passed by the state Legislature this year, will mean a greater emphasis on nutrition in schools, something WVU extension agent and nutritionist Sarah Sturgill said is key to developing positive attitudes about food as an adult.
"The kids are trying the vegetables; they're trying things like turnips and radishes and things they might not try otherwise," she said. "We talked about what they liked and what they didn't like, and why they should keep trying things even if they don't like them right now."
The high tunnel is the newest innovation in GW's teaching initiatives. According to principal Mary Beth Myers, the school has implemented other new programs to introduce interactive learning to the students.
Globally Prepared Students, or GPS, is a program the school developed for its kindergarten, first- and second-graders two years ago that teaches 18 separate units on subjects such as organisms, government, mapping and directions, solids and liquids, and other science and social studies areas that correspond with state standards. Students can choose what subject they want to learn about every eight weeks, and the 18 units are completed over the course of three years.
"Parents tell me that's what they come home and talk about. Now, it's the high tunnel and GPS -- that's what they go home and tell their parents about," Myers said.
Ten Putnam County master gardeners oversaw the high tunnel's construction. They built the raised beds and helped the children select what plants they would grow.
"We're kind of the workforce," said Kathy Walker, president of the Master Gardeners of Putnam County. "The day we built the raised beds it was so neat -- four of us came and thought, 'we'll get a few of them built today.' It was like an Amish barn-raising. People came from everywhere with all of their tools. I think we counted 17 parents at one time. We built every one of the beds and had them filled with soil in three and a half hours. It was wonderful."
The vegetables the students have grown have been incorporated in the school's salad bar at lunch, and flowers grown in the high tunnel have been used to fill the pots in front of the school. Myers said math and science units have been seamlessly incorporated into the students' learning experience in a way that is fun and interactive.
"It's not sitting still and doing something out of a book. It is active learning," she said. "The students are always excited, and they're very engaged."Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.