Vegetable Planting Day at Jones Elementary
February 18 – A freezing, windy and early Friday morning couldn’t slow down the excitement of H.T. Jones Elementary students as they prepared for the moment they’d anticipated since before they left for their holiday break. The time was here to plant vegetables in their campus’ new raised garden beds.
The NextGEN (gardening, education, nutrition) Project initially began with a meeting of the minds from the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, The City of Prairie View, and Jones Elementary in November 2018 who would come together to form a team to create something grand for these students. Since that meeting, CAHS Professor and Research Specialist Dr. Richard Griffin have visited the school to test the soil for planting on some occasions. He shared with Cooperative Extension Program’s Waller County Agent Stedman Douglas, Chandra Adams, and H.T. Jones Elementary Science Teacher Douglas Bolar how he measures soil density and pH. This helps determine if the soil is suitable for growing and will sustain the plants. “You will want to break the surface first, then mix some mulch in and mix it. If you can get six inches into the ground and form the bed – give it at least eight inches – then at that point, you will have a nice amount of room for the plants to grow.” PH gives an idea of what nutrients are available in the soil and the best pH to grow vegetables is 6.5. Dr. Griffin’s test revealed that the soil measured at 6.9 pH which better prepared the team with their plans for the garden beds.
When students returned to school from their break on Monday, January 7th, they would spend their week learning about growing vegetables from Mr. Bolar, anticipating what was to come on Friday. The day finally came, and teachers lined up their classes near the playground. As they gathered around their respective garden beds, student’s excited bustled over amongst them. Rafash Brew, Agriculture, and Natural Resources (AgNR) Program Specialist, talked to students about the importance of growing vegetables. He went on to explain to the students the types of vegetables they would be planting and proper techniques to
care for the plants. To stress the importance of eating foods that would help the students in growing healthy and strong, Brew shared the nutritional value of the foods the students would be planting. “The leafy vegetables that we are going to be planting today are high in calcium.”Students were each handed small mustard green seedlings and given small spaces to plant their vegetables into the dirt. Mayor David Allen was also on hand to help the students and even plant his seedling. Once everyone had the opportunity to plant, students took turn watering their plants and marking their garden beds with their class identifications. Chandra Adams, PVAMU Veterinary Assistant and community lead for the NextGEN project says though many of these students live in rural areas, they do not have a good understanding of what happens in farming. “Most of these students are growing up on farms and ranches, so they’re familiar with it, but don’t have the foundation. We’re giving them the education part of it. We’re adding education and hands-on training.” She believes this project is a great way to teach students about the jobs they can obtain in the agriculture field.
Over the next few weeks, students will be able to tend to their plants under the guidance of the lead teacher on this project, Mr. Bolar. The NextGEN project will continue for many months ahead, and expected developments are underway that will expand these same opportunities to the Waller, Hempstead and Prairie View communities.
This work is/was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 1890 Extension Formula/Evans-Allen 1890 Research Formula Program projects under Section 1444 and Section 1445.