Gardens teach healthy habits

Published 8:25 pm Monday, January 28, 2013

At Booker T. Washington Elementary School Monday, assistant principal Steve Smith helps Girl Scout Troop 669 member Jasmine Mabrey, a King’s Fork High School junior, work the power drill to assemble a raised garden bed.

After freezing temperatures postponed their plans a couple of times, girls from Suffolk’s Girl Scout Troop 669 visited Booker T. Washington Elementary School Monday to construct raised garden beds that will teach students about science and healthy habits.

With power drill-wielding Booker T. Washington assistant principal Steve Smith leading the charge, 11 girls from the troop, ranging in ages from seven to 17, helped assemble eight pieces of lumber to make two four-feet-by-four-feet beds.

Collaborating on the project were the Girl Scout troop, Suffolk Public Schools, the Suffolk Parks and Recreation Department and Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, which is establishing seven new gardens at elementary, middle and high schools.


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“This is the first one,” said Kay Cherry, the partnership’s gardening project chair, adding that trial gardens were done at Kilby Shores Elementary and the now-shuttered Mount Zion Elementary.

“The partnership brings in a garden package with everything ready to go. … This is really exciting to have the community be a part of this.”

Teacher Brenda Snashall, a second- and third-grade Title I reading specialist, will lead the vegetable growing at Booker T. Washington.

They’ve attempted to grow vegetables in the past. “We’ve had really good luck with zucchinis, and that’s about it,” Snashall said.

“We also have a butterfly garden. We try to come out (for) about 10 minutes weekly to view the garden — if they’ve already done their work. We do temperature, precipitation, and things that are already in their SOLs (Standards of Learning). They love it.”

Troop leader Latricia Russell-Wilkerson said that the Girl Scouts, consisting of Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes and two Ambassadors, earned credit toward the gardening badge.

“It also serves as a community service badge for the older girls,” she said, adding that they also volunteer at Autumn Care nursing home toward their community service badge.

“It teaches them about community involvement. They also pick up some valuable learning skills along the way, like teamwork.”

Twins Jazmyne and Sandra Wilkerson, second-graders at Booker T. Washington, enjoyed the experience of building garden beds at their school.

“We grow vegetables so we can be healthy,” Sandra said.

The project will include three growing seasons starting in the spring. Produce will be used in canning and nutrition lessons for students and families.

Funding for the project is from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, and the partnership’s new executive director, Robbie Laughton, also attended Monday’s garden bed building.