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Lessons you can eat: Explore the ‘Edible Campus’ at Smith Elementary School in Burlington

BURLINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — Teachers know their students learn in different ways. Some must feel and see in order to learn. That’s the case with Greg Desern’s Adaptive Curriculum class at Smith Elementary School in Burlington.

He and his students have planted a garden so they can learn how things grow.

“Every morning, it’s like, ‘Can we go to the garden? Can we go to the garden?’ So we come out here about every day,” Desern said.

The Edible Campus at Smith is a big hit with everyone at the school. Desern and his students constructed it and raised most all of the plants from seeds. It’s a place where more than just plants grow.

“They have learned so much. We’ve gone over the life of the seeds,” said Desern. “We’ve talked about all the pollinators. I think it’s really important to get your hands dirty. And they have really picked up a lot, and they’re doing fantastic with it.”

Everything in this garden was designed with children in mind. It’s planted in the shape of a flower and includes fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, herbs and more.

“We put up our bird feeders out here, and any given day we’ll have about six different varieties of birds out here that the kids get to see and and talk about,” he said.

He added, “What we want to do is watch them nurture the garden from seed all the way to the point where we cook it for them and they eat it — which we fully plan on doing. And we’ve got some good crops out there that are starting to grow. So hopefully when they come back in the fall, they will definitely be ready to harvest.”

Some of the plants will produce vegetables this summer. Desern says they will continue to maintain the garden and can take some of the harvest home. But they didn’t stop with just the garden.

The class also constructed an outdoor classroom so that other classes in the school can enjoy the sanctuary they have created.

Smith Principal Julie Hancock says it’s a great place for all of the students. 

“I think for our students to be able to come out here and see how his kids have contributed to this and then for them to have kind of shared ownership in it and come together to help see to it fruition, I think, is just super cool,” Hancock said.