Twice each school year, fourth-grade students at H.C. Mines participate in hands-on gardening and harvesting, but only a few are chosen to take part in the Junior Master Gardener program held monthly in the school's library.
''There's a waiting list to get in,'' said program coordinator and Trumbull County Master Gardener Jackie Mills. ''Students have to make a commitment and if they don't participate, they are out of the program.''
Mills, trained through the Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener program, began the program 10 years ago in cooperation with school administrators. The course follows the school's science curriculum in addition to reinforcing other skills such as reading, she said.
At the beginning of each school year, all fourth grade students participate in harvesting seeds from marigold flowers that were planted in the spring. Many of the seeds are saved for the spring planting, but most are packaged and sold at the school's annual Christmas Gift Shop, said fourth-grade teacher Lynda Grove. Students also build scarecrows that are displayed in the gardens throughout the school year.
''The money generated from the seed sales are donated to Children's Rehab,'' Grove said.
Following the harvest, 24 students are chosen by classroom teachers who pull students' names randomly. These students are able to take part in the monthly labs held in the school's library. Students eat lunch during a brief lecture given by an OSU Extension trained certified Master Gardener, after which they participate in hands-on projects reinforcing what they have learned.
''Competition is tough to get into this group,'' Grove said. ''This is why we pull names. They all want in.''
Throughout the year, the students learn horticultural related topics including plant propagation, edible plant parts and worm composting. During the 45-minute class, students might be asked to plant succulents in old shoes, plant seeds or do worksheets.
In spring, the students plant the harvested seeds in trays on a grow-light bench. Students and teachers tend to the watering and care of the young plants. In May, the entire fourth-grade plants flowers in the school's garden beds.