Taking Environmental Stewardship to the Classroom

Many local schools proudly take part in a wide variety of “green” type projects, many of which aim to help students become more eco-minded stewards of the planet. We recently heard from Jeanne Rudzki, an Environmental science teacher at Fultondale High School, about the efforts she and her students put forth each year to sustain an organic garden.

The garden, which is located on the school’s campus and grows a large variety of both vegetables and flowers, is actively supported by close to 75 environmental science students. An additional 75 students from other classes periodically use the garden for other learning purposes as well. “Originally, the organic garden was built for my environmental science students to give them the opportunity to learn how to grow their own crops using organic gardening techniques,”explains Rudzki. Since its origination however, the garden has expanded to include perennial flowers for use in art classes, and several types of herbs grown with the school’s culinary arts program in mind.

In an attempt to teach as much about organic gardening through all of the seasons, Rudzki and her students make use of the garden all year long. Recently, students planted a variety of cold weather vegetables such as, brussel sprouts, squash, cabbage, and a varied selection of salad greens.

Rudzki isn’t the only one who sees the growing educational and environmental benefits generated through use of the garden-her students do as well. One such student explains that the garden “shows students there is also learning outside of the classroom.” Another of Rudzki’s students says that the experience makes him want to have a garden of his own, and that “it helps us to get more in touch with the earth and how we should not abuse it.”

First planted five years ago, the garden was funded by a variety of supporters, including Legacy, one of Alabama’s leading environmental education organizations, and Cullman-Jefferson Gas. Recently, the Jefferson County Education Foundation also made a significant donation to help fund and maintain the organic garden. Community support is key to the success of many green school projects such as this one by Fultondale High School. For students and faculty alike, the desire to create an outdoor learning environment is plentiful in reward. “My personal goal for the students is that they will take with them a respect for the environment, and a desire to be self sustaining with composting, saving seeds, (and) having a backyard garden.” The excitement expressed by Rudzki’s students as they talk about their garden is enough to assume that Rudzki’s goals are well on their way to being achieved.

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