Mid-Missouri school district plans to grow new gardening curriculum

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ASHLAND - An educational gardening program in southern Boone County will run out of funding next year, but the Southern Boone County School District wants to ensure the garden-based lessons will continue.

The Southern Boone School Board discussed integration plans with the board of the Southern Boone Learning Garden Friday morning. 

The Southern Boone Learning Garden is an independent nonprofit organization that uses hands-on gardening to teach students about nutrition, communication, growing food and more. The organization currently has gardening and cooking clubs, as well as garden classes at least six times a year, according to its website.

The organization is funded by a yearly $100,000 grant, but that grant expires in December 2017. That's where the school district comes in. 

Superintendent Chris Felmlee said he doesn't know if the district can appropriate that much money to the program, but he said it can provide a teacher to oversee the curriculum in kindergarten through fifth grade classes. 

"We talked about the program becoming a special, just like music and art," Felmlee said. "Well this would be kinda like an add-on to science more or less, and a great opportunity for the kids to learn about agriculture and horticulture." 

Jenny Grabner is the executive director and co-founder of the Southern Boone Learning Garden. She said she's excited about officially joining the district.

"They've always been so supportive of the learning garden - letting us do this," Grabner said. "And I'm just really thrilled that they're even considering embracing it and integrating it to such a huge extent by creating that position." 

Jack Crane goes to Southern Boone County Middle School. He said the garden is a great place for kids to go to learn about what they eat. 

His mother, Misie Crane, said the learning garden is an amazing program.

"When you have a program like this in your community, the kids get excited about it," Crane said. "They're more willing to try new things. They want to do the cooking classes after school so they can see how these things that they've grown all year long can be prepared," she said.

The superintendent said he also likes what the learning garden does for students, and said the district doesn't want to lose it. 

"The board of education values what the learning garden has done and its growth over the years, and it's great experiences for kids," Felmlee said. "We want to keep that happening at Southern Boone."

Felmlee said the district also plans to help with maintenance and upkeep of the gardens. 

He said the next meeting between the school board and the gardening board is scheduled for October or November. Everyone is welcome to attend, share comments and get involved.