WATAUGA — Local schools participating in the Lettuce Learn garden program have been busy this spring getting ready for the upcoming growing season.

Lettuce Learn is a gardening project that supports teachers, child care professionals and school leaders to create edible landscapes for learning. The program helps to maintain gardens at several local elementary schools.

Parkway Elementary

Students at Parkway Elementary participated in the first of several taste tests in early May as part of the TASTE, or “teaching all students to experience,” local food project thanks to funding from High Country Local First.

Students sampled beets that were roasted with onions and garlic and served with tortilla chips. The beets were provided by Springhouse Farms, a certified organic farm in Watauga County.

Parkway was also among several schools to have completed Pollinator Gardens.

Thanks to help from grants, Lettuce Learn was able to assist in the installation of six pollinator gardens, at Parkway Elementary, Valle Crucis Elementary, Bethel Elementary, Two Rivers Community School and Mabel Elementary, as well as the ASU Child Development Center.

There are now more than 800 square feet of food and habitat for beneficial pollinators, where before there was barren grass lawn. Students at these elementary schools will in turn benefit from the hands-on learning about pollinators, plant types and uses and the workings of an ecosystem.

Two Rivers Community School

Two Rivers Community School has just finished up a “Garden in a Tray” fundraiser, which earned more than $650. The school was also the recipient of the Farm Bureau’s “Ag in the Classroom” grant that allowed them to enhance their teaching of season extension techniques.

Students learned about starting seeds indoors and the construction of cold frames and low tunnels.

Two Rivers is also looking for volunteers to help in the community garden during the June, July and early August summer months.

Valle Crucis Elementary

Valle Crucis has been busy this spring planting a variety of plants.

They have strawberries, broccoli and kale planted in their garden. More bulbs and seeds are being planted in the coming weeks.

Mountain Pathways Montessori School

Mountain Pathways students have a large garden planted and have inoculated almost all of their mushroom logs.

Mountain Pathways also offers several summer sessions at Farm Camp.

At Farm Camp, students will learn the fundamentals of a sustainable food system and will learn to be active community members by growing surplus food for Hospitality House and F.A.R.M. Cafe.

Cove Creek Elementary

Cove Creek has announced that the school will build a school garden. While Cove Creek already had a greenhouse, established horticulture class and several raised flower beds, the schoolwide initiative for hands-on learning is expanding.

A sixth-grade class also recently got the opportunity to participate in App State’s “EcoSensors for Mountain Classrooms” program and used a Vernier LabQuest 2 digital probe system to test soil quality at different areas around the school to verify that the soil was high enough quality for the upcoming garden.

Appalachian State University Child Development Center

This year, the Child Development Center held an Earth Day celebration on April 23.

The children made recyclable passports to ensure that everyone got to enjoy the activities.

Kids got to hold baby chicks, made recycled CD reflectors for their gardens, made toilet paper roll bird feeders and decorated egg carton caterpillars.

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