CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)–A Penn State University agriculture class created an outdoor education space for the Children’s Express Center in Cresson to teach them about the importance of agriculture.
After a month of planning, students and professors started building the garden from the ground up early Wednesday morning. The team planted fruits, vegetables, and other herbs in a day’s work to get the kids started.
Justin Kurtz, a senior in the class, said this hopefully gives kids the opportunity to understand how planting works and where their food comes from. The lesson is to show how agriculture impacts them in their everyday life.
“There’s a mix of plants that will attract some of the sensory elements so students can come in and feel them and interact with them,” Kurtz said. “Then we also have plants that are edible as well. So we got some blueberries, so instead of a student seeing a package of blueberries at the store. They can see the wooded plant that the blueberry comes from. Which is quite interesting for them to see.”
Agricultural literacy is trying to grow through the state’s Farm to School grants, which provide funding to schools to improve access to locally produced foods and agricultural education opportunities. However, in Cambria County, there are not many educational opportunities around.
The Director of the Childcare Center, Rebecca Strunk, thinks the garden will allow students to appreciate the fresh produce and prevent food insecurity because they’ll take the food home. It’ll also serve as another classroom to have them get outdoors and escape from any chaos.
“My kids don’t have a lot of real fruits and vegetables,” Strunk said. So to me, I said let’s learn that, cause I think they’ll eat it more if they’re growing it. So that was my thinking in the beginning part of it. I want the space for them to go out there and have some peace and quiet.”
Kurtz said that he’s proud of his class and their work to get the garden up and running. He thinks that growing fresh plants, fruits, and vegetables will inspire students to become enthusiastic about planting and farming.
“This is the next generation of consumers, agriculturalists, conservationists, marketing directors, retail directors, storefront owners,” Kurtz said. “That’s why it’s super imperative that we teach our children about agriculture.”
Strunk said that students and parents are already excited for them to start using the garden, which will begin as soon as possible. She thinks it’ll draw more students to the center because it is one of the first of its kind. Once the weather warms up, they plan to add more fruits and vegetables.
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“I just can’t wait to see them. They’re so excited,” Strunk said. “Parents are excited cause kids are going home and talking about it and being really excited. There’s definitely excitement in the air for us.”