Volunteers break ground on the new garden at Francis Lettsome Primary School in East End on Aug. 18. (Photo: PROVIDED)

Although nothing has been planted in the brand-new garden at Francis Lettsome Primary School in East End, the soil has been turned and readied for students to plant pumpkins, carrots, flowers or whatever their imagination can dream up when they return this fall.

The garden was installed Saturday, Aug. 18, with help from volunteers from Harneys, All Hands and Hearts and local farmers. It’s the second in an initiative sponsored by Green VI and the Department of Agriculture, the first being Bregado Flax Educational Centre on Virgin Gorda.

According to Nea Talbot, the Green VI gardening coordinator who owns Full Belly Farm, the organisation is implementing garden-centred lessons and activities for students in kindergarten through sixth grade that align with the national curriculum.

“I’ve developed these by working with teachers and principals to create lessons that are student centred and emphasise experiential learning,” Ms. Talbot said, adding that the lessons will focus on organic gardening and waste management techniques like composting.

According to Ms. Talbot, students will take the lead on deciding what to plant, and she will work closely with teachers to help them keep the gardens flourishing. Agricultural officers will also be on hand to lend their expertise to students, she said, and each school will have an associated community farmer who can lend expertise and invite students on field trips to see farming in action.

Teaching through growing

Sarah Penney, deputy director of Green VI, said that besides agriculture, students will also learn entrepreneurship from selling the produce they grow.

“The garden project connects to all four of Green VI’s focus areas: waste, energy, water and education. It’s inspiring how much, including entrepreneurship, can be taught through gardens,” she said. “We are also grateful to be creating some- thing that empowers and engages students and teachers.”

Ms. Penney added that since the VI curriculum is already time-consuming and intense, the goal with the curriculum was to cut down on the work teachers have to do in order to more easily teach the concepts.

In March, Education and Culture Minister Myron Walwyn called for a renewed focus on food security in the territory, adding that he was mandating that schools start gardens and that “agricultural science become a greater focus as part of the curriculum.”

Ms. Penney said so far the programme is focused on primary students and will expand slowly as the organisation works to form relationships with each school. Ebenezer Thomas Primary is next on the list. Eventually, she said, the organisation would like to reach secondary students as well.

“We are aiming to reach all schools, but as I’m only one person, I’m working with a few at a time,” Ms. Talbot said.

She encouraged principals interested in bringing the programme to their school to contact her at 340-9335.