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Tuesday, 16 January 2007
Local Teachers Plant Seeds of Ag Education



The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)


By Richard Dymond

EAST MANATEE -- Two Braden River Middle School science teachers are making sure their students know that vegetables don't start out in grocery stores.

Erica Timmerman and Jane Beach are two of 22 Florida teachers who have been awarded Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc., grants.

With the $1,500 they will receive from Florida Ag in the Classroom and an additional $1,000 from Braden River Middle School principal Randall Petrilla, the teachers will conduct a plant experiment on the south side of the school beginning in February, Timmerman said.

With the teachers' help, Braden River Middle sixth-graders will compare the growth, water usage and limitations of plants grown in a traditional raised-bed garden to those grown in EarthBoxes, Beach said. Unlike a traditional garden, EarthBoxes, developed by Parrish farmer Blake Whisenant, keep soil in an enclosed environment to trap moisture and water plants from beneath the soil.

The two teachers have made it their mission that children learn where food comes from.

A visit to Timmerman's classroom reveals a plethora of baby plants grown from seeds, including marigolds, sunflowers, potatoes and radishes.

"So many kids grow up in the city and don't know how a seed grows," Timmerman said.

But once students know that food can grow from a seed in a pot in a classroom, they become fascinated, Beach said.

"We received a Florida Ag in the Classroom grant for growing strawberries hydroponically in 2003," Beach said. "That was our first grant. The kids were amazed when they saw the plant blossom and produce fruit. Once they make the connection that this is all part of a natural process, they say, 'Oh, wow.' "

Braden River Middle sixth-grader Dristin Hughes, of Creekwood, was so inspired by agriculture that he did his annual science project this year on radish seeds and earthworms.

Dristin grew radishes in a pot with earthworms and in a pot without them. The pot with the worms produced radishes faster, Dristin said.

"The earthworms produce fertilizer, which makes the plant grow faster," Dristin said.

While some of his classmates were stunned that tiny seeds can grow food, Dristin wasn't surprised.

"My aunt, Kim Crockett, works at Harllee Tomato packing house in Palmetto, so I learned that food doesn't start in grocery stores pretty early," Dristin said.

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