Hillsboro Junior High School

GLOSS, the Garden/Learning Outdoor Student Space program planned for Hillsboro Junior High School in Hillsboro, Texas, is a shining example of an innovative garden program that will enhance learning in many areas across the curriculum, from science, history and art to physical education, environmental stewardship and teamwork. This ambitious program was the grand prize recipient of the 2016 Eat. Learn. Live. and Grow Grant, sponsored by Chartwells K12 in partnership with KidsGardening.org.

The $5000 award will help this school of 425 students establish their outdoor classroom, food garden, and student space. Led by the Science Club, with the assistance of interested faculty and staff, along with Nanette Blair, certified permaculture designer and consultant, their garden space will contain 8-10 raised beds as well as trees grown in containers. All of the beds will be constructed at wheelchair height to make the garden accessible to all. Vertical trellised areas will maximize growing space, and a “Snack Track” alongside a covered walkway will offer strawberries, blueberries, and cherry tomatoes for quick harvest.

Students were polled to find the plants they are most interested in growing. True to their Texas heritage, peppers of all kinds ranked high, along with strawberries, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, grapes, blueberries, potatoes, carrots, green beans and a variety of herbs. The design includes various micro-climates so that students can observe the effect on plant growth of sun, shade, and more or less water. They also plan to include a small bed to assess the effects of companion planting and to arrange some of plants into “guilds” that mimic the natural layers and associations of plants in a forest, a key tenet of permaculture.

All of these plantings will inform and enhance classroom learning. Sixth grade science classes will plant seeds indoors to study germination and experiment with the use of artificial and natural light on plant growth. Seventh grade science students will collect data on plant growth, measure water needs, and chart photosynthesis, while eighth graders will research climate and hardiness zones and help to determine the best plants to fill the garden space. Life skills classes will help with watering and garden maintenance; math classes will help plan for the size, soil needs, and placement of container plants; nutrition and health classes will learn about healthy eating and write a “kid-approved” cookbook with recipes using garden produce. All of the students will practice critical thinking skills and increase their understanding of the environment and their place in it as they participate in making and sustaining the garden.

KidsGardening is gratified to be able to help facilitate this expansive and exciting garden program through its sponsored grant program, and we look forward to getting updates on its many benefits as the students at Hillsboro Junior High School embark on the adventure of learning in the garden.