Hands-on activities leave lasting mark on lives of students

October 10, 2017 GMT

A number of projects at West End Elementary School aren’t simply focused on increasing engagement with handson activities, but about turning kids into active problem solvers for one of the world’s most pressing issues — extending the food supply.

“People can’t say ‘no’ to a third-grader telling you how to save the world,” said Tiffany Abbott Fuller, adding that she would love to see students lead further lessons on environmental sustainability.

And this will last in the minds of kids forever, said Fuller, a literacy coach at the school. The lessons students take away from the school’s pollinator project, worm composting initiative, raised-bed gardens and farm-to-table cookbook will be something they take with them into adulthood, either as a career or a hobby. The impact of these burgeoning, well-rounded individuals on their communities and the environment will be felt, she said.

This is Part Two of a two-part series on projects at West End Elementary School that are focused on environmental sustainability and what impact these projects are having on the way students learn. Part One ran in Saturday’s Rome News-Tribune.

Along with the planning grant from the state that the school received to set in motion the pollinator project, West End received two other grants to piggyback the first. The first grade was provided $10,000 to begin developing worm compost heaps, to support the gardens that the sixth grade is constructing which will in turn support the pollinators. Then, a $4,500 grant is supporting about 40 English-language learners in kindergarten through second grade to create a farm-to-table cookbook.

The WEE Worms and WEE Cook projects fall right in line with the WEE Bees project that is having its groundwork laid in the run-up to bringing the bees to the school in spring 2019.

Fuller said worms play an extremely important role in supporting a sustainable food source and pollinators. A student enterprise at Berry College is helping with the worm composting piles, since they can already be found on the campus, she added.

The cookbook is a unique way to boosting literacy in some of the youngest students at the school, said Fuller. Cooking is a universal language, she explained, and it will be used to bring students up to fluency in English. The recipes will be inspired by the items in the school’s gardens, and honey recipes will be written up to incorporate the yield from the hives.

Once the cookbook is finished, students will participate in a mini book tour around Rome, putting them in a position where they will have to talk a lot and challenge themselves to speak their second language, Fuller said.

With students in all grades working on projects under one larger theme, it leaves room for kids to teach kids, as well as adults in the community, Fuller explained. Having “Lunch and Learn” sessions at the school is one community engagement outlet students will participate in. Topics could be on alternative pesticides, tips on growing a garden or maintaining beehives, with the key being that kids lead the lessons.