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Sullins Partners with ASD on Garden Project

BRISTOL, Va. — Students at Sullins Academy began work Tuesday on an outdoor gardening project expected to serve as a science classroom.

Working with representatives from Appalachian Sustainable Development, about 20 eighth-grade students measured the location where six raised garden beds will be placed. Actual installation is planned for today as part of Earth Day.

“The students are designing where the gardens will be — flagging and measuring — more of a math-related day,” Head of School Christopher Rehm said. “The gardens are a fantastic opportunity to teach math and science and a connection with nature. These are very valuable educational resources for students and we’re eager to do that.”

The work is a continuation of ASD’s learning landscapes program, spokeswoman Sylvia Crum said.

“There are a variety of things they’ll be growing, primarily vegetables,” Crum said. “They’ll be doing salad mix, spinach, green beans and culinary herbs. This is the first year of the [Sullins] project so we’re shooting for lots of participation, we want to ensure success. In the first year, you want the kids to have a great experience so they want to come back for the second year.”

Similar programs are in place at public schools and other sites in Bristol and Washington County, Virginia.

“We live in a culture where a lot of things happen pretty quickly and this is about teaching kids to connect with each other and connect to nature and realize a lot is out of our control. If it doesn’t rain, it affects your harvest; you have to wait, you have to nurture,” Crum said.

ASD will provide on-site instruction to Sullins students who will help design, build, tend and harvest the garden and ASD will train staff, faculty and parents to ensure sustainability of the raised bed garden after the first year.

The program will involve the school’s 200 students, from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, instructor Nathan Weber said.

“The eighth grade worked with developing and mapping, seventh grade is life science so it’s about planting, plant life cycle, how plants are pollinated, how they grow and all those things,” Weber said. “Sixth grade is earth science so it’s more about the materials in the soil and what helps plants grow. With pre-K through fifth grade, we’ll hit all the little bits and pieces.”

Weber said the best part will be the ability to take students right to the garden to better understand concepts.

Students enrolled in the private school’s enrichment program will be responsible for tending the garden while school is out.

“The idea is to plant things now that can be tended over the summer — and some harvested over the summer — with the intent of a fall harvest so the kids can see the fruits of their labor,” Rehm said.

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