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Paducah Public Schools News Article

Local students grow fresh produce in Tower Gardens

A year later, Clark Elementary has jumped on board, implementing its own three tower gardens this year.

Julie Sheffer, a K-5 science specialist at Clark, said many students have expressed an interest in eating foods they have never tried before simply because they helped grow the food.

She said the Tower Gardens open up a number of learning opportunities, touching on acids and bases, water quality, data gathering and measurement, and light waves.

"We will even have the opportunity to compare and contrast how our indoor garden and outdoor garden are growing," Sheffer said. "Our students are very excited about ensuring the success of our Tower Garden and eager to get started on different types of foods. Hopefully, the Tower Garden will change each student in some way, whether it is healthy eating, introducing new foods, sparking an interest in science, or sowing the seeds for a future career."

Jennifer Beyer, STEAM teacher for students kindergarten through fifth grade at McNabb, said the project goes far beyond growing a couple of fruits and vegetables. She said it has boosted an interest in healthy eating for students.

"Once the plants get to where they are bearing enough produce, I gather it and take it to the cafeteria," Beyer said. "When they (students) realized that we were going to be serving what they grew in their salads, it really boosted interest in eating them."

Beyer said McNabb is producing several different types of lettuce, two different varieties of tomatoes, one variety of peppers, kale, broccoli microgreens, sugar snap peas and celery.

"We see those plant cycles happening in real time, which has been fantastic," Beyer said. "We're also teaching the children how to self-pollinate."

When everything is up and running, Beyer said, the scene almost looks futuristic, but one of the most exciting aspects of the tower gardens for her is the opportunity to give students early exposure to more complex subjects, like chemistry.

"We are talking about nutrients going into water and making a solution," Beyer said. "With my older students, we have to make sure that the pH level of the solution in the tanks is optimal so the plants will grow their best. So they are doing some basic pH testing with me, and that's amazing."

Beyer said McNabb's tower gardens are seeing a couple of changes this year, including the implementation of a STEAM lab club for fourth and fifth graders at McNabb.

"Those students are really getting to learn more hands-on and helping me take care of the towers," Beyer said. "I'm very proud of them."

Lynsi Barnhill, director of food and nutrition services at Paducah Public Schools, said she is excited for students to have the opportunity to collaborate with one another and participate in the growing process from tower to table.

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