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Master Gardener grants go to seven teachers

Annual grant awards from the Lenoir County Extension Master Gardeners Volunteer Association to inspire projects related to horticulture have gone to seven teachers in Lenoir County.

Eight women pose on the steps leading up to a red metal building. The grants were awarded recently to Brenda Griffin of Pink Hill Elementary School, Rachel Hill of Northwest Elementary School, Jessica Jones of Woodington Middle School, Ashley Ledford of Southwood Elementary School, Jodi Maxey of South Lenoir High School, Carol Riddle of Bethel Christian Academy and Kaitlyn Stroud of Northwest Elementary School.

Grant awards ranged from $200 to $400. All teacher requests were fully funded.

Below, the teachers describe their winning grants:

Brenda Griffin, fourth grade, Pink Hill Elementary: My grant was to fund flower bulbs, bulb planters and supplies. My students will plant and nurture the flower bulbs to maturity. They will then harvest the flowers and we will share them with a local assisted living facility. 

Rachel Hill, fifth grade, Northwest Elementary: The grant is called “Breaking it down – understanding the role of decomposers with classroom composting.” Students will learn about the composting process by collecting organic food waste from their school meals and placing the scraps in a composting bin. Students will weigh the food waste before putting it in the compost bin and then later weigh the compost that is produced. This will enable students to visualize how decomposers break down organic matter by converting solid materials to gases.

Jessica Jones, agriculture education, Woodington Middle: This grant will establish a worm composting system for the study of vermicompost. We will be able to apply vermicompost to our soil to optimize plant growth. We will collect food scraps and shred paper to utilize in the compost bins where our Red Wrigglers will thrive. Students will monitor bins, collect compostable material, learn about the advantages of composting and apply compost to our greenhouse processes.

Ashley Ledford, Exceptional Children, Southwood Elementary: The Master Gardener grant that I received is titled, “The Secret Sensory Garden.” Creating a sensory garden will assist our students with emotional, sensory and academic needs by creating a safe place to calm themselves, self-regulate and build confidence for academic and personal success. A sensory garden is an area that concentrates on and emphasizes a wide range of sensory experiences by stimulating the five senses in an intentional way. This stimulation occurs courtesy of plants and engages an individual’s sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. While sensory gardens can be especially wonderful for people with sensory impairments, people of all abilities enjoy them. I envision an outdoor place that features plants and a musical wall that our children can enjoy and use as a safe place during this school year and for years to come. 

Jodi Maxey, science, South Lenoir High: My project involves creating a certified Monarch Butterfly Waystation to serve as a habitat for the fall migration to mountains in Mexico. The garden, which will be located at South Lenoir High School, will include flowering plants that provide nectar as an energy source for the adults and milkweed plants that are the sole hosts for the caterpillars, as well as the only plant on which the adult females will lay their eggs. In the last few years, the population of monarchs has severely declined. This waystation will be one of thousands that have been created by concerned gardeners along the migratory paths from Mexico to Canada.

Carol Riddle, high school science, Bethel Christian Academy: The grant funds will purchase hydroponic growing systems and supplies. Students will learn how to start seeds for hydroponic growing, set the seedlings up to grow in the system and record the growth rates over a two-month period. After the two-month time limit is completed, they will weigh and measure the crop before enjoying a wonderful lettuce salad or sandwich toppings. After enjoying their labors, they will write a report with documentation of the experiment, data collection tables and comments on their observations.

Kaitlyn Stroud, second grant, Northwest Elementary: Through this grant, I aim to address challenges among my remote learning class with the use of “plant packages,” which will be delivered to each student. These packages will contain packets of seeds, plastic pots, potting soil and measuring cups. Students will plant seeds of several varieties and grow the plants at home. They will be responsible for watering and taking care of seedlings, which will help them understand the requirements for plant growth. They will also record how much water their plants receive and perform calculations with these data.

Photo caption:

Pat Bizzell, center, president of Lenoir County Master Gardeners, with 2020 grant winners, clockwise from bottom left, Kaitlyn Stroud of Northwest Elementary School, Carol Riddle of Bethel Christian Academy, Brenda Griffin of Pink Hill Elementary School, Rachel Hill of Northwest Elementary School, Ashley Ledford of Southwood Elementary School, Jodi Maxey of South Lenoir High School and Jessica Jones of Woodington Middle School.