Angela Vaughn is a Second Grade Teacher at Shaw VPA Elementary. She works with her Second Graders in the garden. The following is an interview with Angela Vaughn and Gateway Greening’s Youth Educator, Punita Patel.
How did you get started with gardening at school?
About three years ago, I began working with an architecture program and we made birdhouses in the garden area. The garden just seemed so peaceful. So we would take the students out and work at the picnic benches that are there. The kids would love walking around and just observing. So when I moved to the second grade, I thought it would be a great hands-on experience for them to have a garden.
Why do you stick with it?
I feel like the students today don’t have enough one-on-one contact and communication. If you think about gardening together, you have to talk. It is not like looking at computers all-day and letting the computers think for them. They have to help each other out. There is a lot of teamwork involved in gardening.
Do you see your students doing things in the garden that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do indoors?
What I see in the garden is them working together, playing together, and being more social. They are very playful, but at the same time, they are serious and look forward to the end result. We want them to see that we are planting the seeds of academics and education in their minds. So we do a compare and contrast with that. We plant these seeds in the garden, which then grow from the earth. But then you come into the building and we plant another type of seed that stays in the mind.
What do teachers need the most in order to use the garden successfully?
More time and manpower, more volunteers. Why? We want the students to be excited about school. When I say the word “garden” or “Ms. Punita,” their faces light up as if I said we’re having candy all day, every day, for the next year. They are excited and I want them to be excited about school.
What have you done in the garden so far?
We worked with Gateway Greening’s Sweet Potato Challenge last year. The sweet potatoes that we are growing indoors right now happen to be sweet potatoes that were left over from the Sweet Potato Challenge last year! This year, we’ve planted the greens and the cabbages. I think the most exciting part for us as a school was during out PTO, we were able to share with our parents. They were so excited to receive free produce! They said “My children grew this?” Yes!
What is your best garden story?
The Sweet Potato Challenge. The children were digging for those potatoes like they were digging for gold. They were working together, and they had glowing faces. It wasn’t anything we had to go to the store and buy or return. To me, that will stay in their minds forever. They were in it to win it!