Students gain edge in life through agriculture
WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- Students at Cherokee Ridge Elementary School in Chickamauga got to play in the dirt for a purpose Friday. It's part of the state-wide STEM Day. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Walker County is taking things a step further by involving kids first-hand in sustainable agriculture.
"Show them where food comes from and that they can provide for themselves and their families," says teacher Beverly Gamble.
Thanks to a corporate grant, Cherokee Ridge has had a garden and greenhouse for about a year. Students grow all types of produce. They're are engaged in every process from composting to planting, learning about life outside the classroom.
It's making an impression on fourth graders Brandon Nichols and Hunter Prescott.
"If you have plants but you don't have [much] money you can live off the plants," says Prescott.
"I probably want to be a farmer so I can grow my own food and live off the land," says Nichols.
Gamble adds it's not only educational but helps with behavior and improving focus.
"It's a therapy," Gamble explains. "It is for all of us."
This couldn't be more true for Ridgeland High Senior Tyler Mooneyham. Hanging around with the wrong crowd landed him in jail at age 14.
"I don't want to be here [in jail]. These people aren't like me. I'm not like these people. I'm different," Mooneyham recalls thinking. "I want to do something. I want to go somewhere in life."
That's exactly what he did. The Rossville school's STEM aquaponics project, raising fish and agriculture together in one economical and efficient system, attracted Mooneyham and helped him get back on track, finding his place in the world.
"It helped me be more comfortable with people, teaching everybody. Helping everybody understand what we're doing here," explains Mooneyham. "It's helped me find a niche."
He interns with a local aquaponics company which designs sustainable agriculture solutions to poor nations overseas. Mooneyham will soon join the company on a trip to Uganda. He also won first place in a state agriculture contest and moves on to the finals in the fall.
Several other schools participated Friday including Rossville Middle and Elementary Schools which also have aquaponic projects.
School officials say this makes Walker the only county in the nation with STEM aquaponics at all three levels, elementary, middle, and high.