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TCC professor teams with school to teach children about the environment

Children and dirt go together. So when Ken Spencer, a horticulture professor at Tidewater Community College, teamed with teachers Mary Anne Decker and Catherine Malley, the result was gardening success and some very excited Bayside Elementary School students.

“The kids are so enthusiastic about working with plants and nature, and they soak up so much knowledge here,” said Spencer. “They are encouraged to taste what we grow, so healthy eating lessons are part of this, too.”

The TCC-affiliated garden was planted at Bayside in Virginia Beach in 2010 by students in Garden Buddies, a 40-member school club that meets after school to learn about gardening and the environment. After a short lesson, students tend to gardening tasks, such as planting, watering, weeding and mulching.

Two Bayside students in Garden BuddiesThe partnership between Spencer and the school started when Decker invited him to speak to her class on the importance of plants. “It’s my goal to share my love of plants with the community, and this school is just one of the places we’ve partnered with to share plants started by TCC students,” he said.

In addition, Bayside students connected with TCC Horticulture Club members during a visit to the greenhouses to see how the plants they are growing got their start.

Decker, an avid gardener added, “We are close to being a Title 1 school and many of our students don’t have yards of their own. Our school garden lets them get their hands dirty and shows them how to care for plants and the earth.”

Bayside offers students the perfect spot to garden with its enclosed, central courtyard.

“We can grow lettuce and broccoli through the winter, because the space stays warm,” Decker said. “We are hoping to serve it in the salads that are selected by the student body at lunch one day soon.”

She added, “Our goal is to teach children about the earth and sustainability. It’s our hope that Garden Buddies participants will share their knowledge about plants and how they affect the habitats for all life here on earth.”