Students in the upper grades at Runaway Bay All Age and Infant School, St. Ann have been reaping from getting their hands dirty in gardens started at the school in February this year. At the same time, they are learning some important lessons, and not just about plants.
Their produce includes cucumbers, pak choi, lettuce, calaloo and spinach.
Teacher behind the project is Lavan Eccleston who just months ago joined the staff at the school, in St. Ann.
Mr. Eccleston told jamaicatoday that he has always loved farming and used the opportunity of teaching Resource and Technology on the Curriculum to get the students to see the benefit of practical agriculture.
The students gravitated to it. They were fascinated to see the seeds grow and the vegetable coming out to be reaped. “It was really remarkable to them, witnessing the vegetables grow from a seed and into a plant, and to also observe the plants becoming mature,” he said.
For Grade 5 he used the container garden concept, getting the students to plant in paint pans, five-gallon plastic buckets, cut in half and even large drink bottles. It allowed him to show them also that plastic material can be recycled with productive use. “They also saw that even if you have no space you can grow vegetables. And you can move the plants out of the sun and to better conditions,” he said.
Runaway Bay which no longer has “all age” grades is in an urban community, with houses hemming in the school grounds. But the school had a small outdoor area that they prepared as a garden and planted. That is the project for the Grade Six students.
They all had very little time, especially the Grade six students faced with PEP. So they watered the plants before the start of school or at the end of the day.
The students’ enthusiasm and love have shone through at home too. Mr. Eccleston said one parent came to him to find out what is it that’s happening because his son has started a garden at home and has been watering it every evening. That father is considering a switch from goat rearing, to the faster vegetable cash crops.
Now after repeating, the harvest has been spread around to staff, as well as students to take home. And some parents have been congratulating Mr. Eccleston, stopping him in the streets and telling him thanks for attitude change in their children.
Mr. Eccleston writes: “It is often said that Agriculture can impact the economy in a positive light. This is true because it can provide employment, food for the country and foreign exchange. To achieve this feat, our country has to start ensuring that students at the primary level learn about basic agricultural practices, which would in turn help them to develop the necessary skill and interest to build on before moving on to high school.”
He thanks the principal and other teachers for their support.