Cape Coral’s Island Coast high helps spur interest in school gardening

Recently, interest in gardens has increased. Island Coast High School in Cape Coral is leading the way in expanding schoolyards across the region so other students can benefit.

The Lee County School District held a regional session of the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom and UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program School Garden Leadership Training Series on December 10 on the Island Coast. Or improve your own school garden and integrate relevant information into your curriculum. The session was originally scheduled for October 8, as part of that month’s nationwide Farm to School program, but was postponed due to Hurricane Ian.

The event began with a tour of the school’s nine-year-old outdoor hydroponic and aquaponic system, led by Susie Hassett, Island Coast High, the district’s Environmental Education Resources teacher. Joe Maron, an agriculture teacher at the school, and Island Coast students, and Lucas Laurenti, John Bowers, and Alexander Guthrie, members of the Academy of Natural Resources.

Local teachers sample nasturtium flowers and curly lettuce during a tour of the Island Coast High School gardens.

“My focus is 100% sustainability,” Mallon notes, noting nearby solar panels, recycling equipment and rain barrels. “We grow a lot of food here!”

“In addition to gardening, we learn things like plumbing and irrigation,” said Laurenti, who oversees the repair of the watering process damaged by Ian.

This was followed by an indoor workshop led by Marco Acosta, FGCU Food Forest Manager. Teachers were provided with plants, seeds, and standards-based materials to bring back to the classroom.

The program is part of the school district’s Healthy Living Collaboration, based at East Lee County High School, and uses a “train the trainer” model to “lead the start of the program, grow seedlings, and help other schools grow hydroponics.” We build systems,” Hassett said.

John Bowers, a student at Island Coast High School and a member of the Academy of Natural Resources, checks the pepper plants in the school garden.

In addition to FGCU, other partners in this initiative, which is being bolstered by a $100,000 USDA grant, include ECHO Global Farms of North Fort Myers and Lee Health.

The seeds of the program were planted last year. In October 2021, students at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, Orangewood and Edison Park Elementary Schools in Fort Myers will sample lettuce grown on the Island Coast and call it “Learning Lettuce” or “The Good Stuff.” named. When served at cafeteria lunches, the student’s choice of salads and lettuce wraps increased her tenfold.

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