Mineola High School freshmen received hands-on lessons about biology this year as they planted, grew and harvested vegetables in a small garden outside their classroom.
Biology teacher Bruce Armstrong has had the garden for several years with the support of campus administrators. He said by getting the students involved in working the garden, his hope is that they will be able to connect the principles they learn from the textbook to what they see in life.
Last week, one of Armstrong's classes went out in the garden, which measures about 10-by-70 feet, to harvest potatoes.
Armstrong wasn't sure how successful their crop would be, given the weather extremes of this year. However, once the students started digging up clumps of dirt with shovels and garden forks, the potatoes turned up.
Armstrong said he and the students would use them to make potato soup for the school.
Potatoes are just the latest crop for the students to harvest. In the summer before school started, Armstrong planted corn, which the students later harvested.
In the fall, the students planted onions, which they used to make French onion soup. In January, they planted sugar snap peas and, in February, they planted potatoes.
Armstrong has conducted experiments with the students by having control and experimental groups with the plants and testing out different fertilizers. He also has used the plants to teach the students about concepts, such as photosynthesis, mitosis, meiosis and more.
In a separate area, Armstrong planted flowers, which he used to teach the students about self-pollination, cross-pollination, genetics and plant anatomy.
The students helped to work the soil, weed and water the garden throughout the school year.
Armstrong said he feels if he involves the students in the garden, they understand biology concepts more than if he just tells them about the concepts. Plus, it's more fun, he said.
A lot of the students have never eaten fresh vegetables from a garden or had some of these varieties, he said.
Armstrong said that although many of the students' first thoughts might be about getting to eat the produce from their garden in class, they also learn academic concepts through the project as well.
Caitlyn Hudson, 15, said working in the garden has been really fun and given the students an opportunity to be a part of the process of planting, picking and eating vegetables.
Claudia Martinez, 15, said their work in the garden reinforced some of the concepts they studied in class including photosynthesis.
Brayden Stehman, 15, said the gardening allowed the students to be active. He said his favorite vegetable of the ones they planted was the sugar snap pea, which Armstrong saut￩ed for the students to eat.
Brett Fowler, 15, said he has some experience helping his mother in her garden, but being able to garden at school was a plus.
"I liked how we got to go outside instead of sit in class," he said.