In Virginia Beach, raising awareness in public schools about the importance of environmental sustainability is a city goal. With nearly 68,000 school-age children in Virginia Beach Public Schools and only one horticulture class offered in Virginia Beach Public Schools and one college Horticulture program regionally, it’s impossible to provide sustainable horticulture education to every student.
Virginia Beach Cooperative Extension sought to fill some of that gap, through five events that succeeded in reaching over 6,200 students.
First and second graders in public schools throughout Virginia Beach participated in Ready, Set, Grow, which taught the importance of plants and how they grow.
Junior Master Gardener Camp taught environmental awareness to underserved youth through Parks and Recreation’s Rehabilitation Program.
Farm Days, sponsored by the Virginia Dare Soil and Water Conservation District, taught students about beneficial insects and habitat preservation.
Harvest Fair at the Virginia Beach farmers market bussed children from all over the city to participate in habitat and environmental awareness activities. The establishment of a new children’s learning garden at the farmer’s market was added to the Rural Heritage Tour, allowing children to learn hands-on about growing plants, pollinators, and sources of fresh fruits and vegetables.
School tours were coordinated to guide children through the demonstration gardens at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center and teach them about plants, how they grow, and how they affect our world.
Additionally, an endowment was maintained to award a scholarship to Virginia Beach youth seeking higher education in an agriculture-related field, and one Virginia Beach student received $1,500 from the endowment to put toward her college tuition.
The 6,200 children reached may not have otherwise received such horticulture education, especially in schools with disadvantaged populations. However, it wasn’t just students who enjoyed the program.
“I like that the students get to touch dirt and real plants,” one teacher said.
“The children love the hands-on learning and were extremely curious,” another teacher said.