Riverside third-graders and their "box buddies" look at lettuce plants (Photo provided)
CHESTER — Cailley Roe of Chester helped launch a new service-learning partnership aimed at getting local elementary school children excited about growing their own food.
With grant funding acquired through SUNY Oneonta's Center for Social Responsibility and Community, Assistant Professor of Biology Sean Robinson built and installed vegetable grow boxes in all 12 kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms at Riverside Elementary School last fall.
As an added challenge for the fifth-graders, the hydroponics growing units are placed side-by-side with the regular grow boxes so the students could see which type of system worked better for their plants.
Roe, who is majoring in sociology, was assigned to one of the classrooms as part of a group of three to four student "box buddies." A total of 68 biology and sociology students participated in the program.
Throughout the fall semester, the students visited their assigned classrooms several times to help the children plant vegetables and herbs and to present lessons about food, society, the environment and plant biology. Each lesson included group discussion and a hands-on activity, such as a game or worksheet.
The program will expand with plans for a harvest festival or local foods tasting event.
"This project has really helped my students learn the information better," said Robinson. "It's also helped with other skills, such as public speaking. Initially the students were nervous about presenting in front of anybody-even little kids-but then by the second or third week, they got totally into it. They got comfortable, they found their groove. And they had fun with it."