Lakeview Middle School’s Giving Garden Encourages Personal, Community Growth

Rossville, GA

Here at Lakeview Middle School in Catoosa County, these students are hard at work tending to their school garden known as the Giving Garden, a project that has become an oasis for them as it’s used as an outlet for kids that maybe need some extra attention. According to Jessica Tatum, School Counselor and one of the masterminds behind the garden says it takes a lot of work but says this is just one of the ways the school pours into these kids outside of just academics.

“I like to use horticultural therapy because each counselor, therapist has their own strengths and weaknesses. I enjoy gardening and I feel like I want to show the kids something I love and get them excited about it so they can learn different things that maybe they’re not used to, that they can, first of all, learn how to dive into something that maybe they’re unsure about and learn it and love it because, that’s what you’re going to have to do in life,” says Tatum. “As far as therapy in the classroom, sometimes for a school counselor, just giving the students a break in the fresh air, letting them use their hands and have tangible sensations, it helps a lot when they go back, especially our ADHD kids; when they go back into the classroom, it’s given them a brain break and a movement break and I think that’s a lot better than just sitting in another classroom or the counselor’s office, just chatting.”

According to Tatum, the garden also serves another purpose as she says it helps kids learn to become self-sustainable, something she’s recognized as important as a large part of their students may not have access to fresh, nutritious foods all the time.

“A large part of our school is at or below poverty line. So, a lot of kids and students don’t really have access to fresh vegetables all the time or gardens. Gardens are just peaceful in general. So, fresh flowers are good for the soul, learning how to dig in the dirt, stuff like that. So, it’s really good that myself and Becky are teaching the students how to plant and grow veggies because they don’t always have access to it, and if they do, they don’t know what it is or how to eat it, etc.,” says Tatum.

Becky Karson, Site Coordinator with Communities in Schools at L.M.S., who runs the school’s Garden Group says they’ve had excellent participation and says that it’s something the kids look forward to each week.

“They’re very excited to come out. I’ve gotten kids that are not even part of the Communities and Schools program here ask me; “Hey, how can I join your garden group?” And “when are we going to have our next gardening group?” So they’re definitely receptive to and are eager to come out and work. It’s gone very well so far. I’m really pleased with it,” says Karson.

Karson says that the garden also has become an opportunity for the kids to give back to their peers, as they get to decide what’s done with the produce after they’ve harvested it.

“I also wanted to build teamwork and a place where they can also give back what they get from the garden. So, we’re going to have a survey to find out what they want to do with the bounty that we get at the end of the year, the harvest and what perhaps you can give it to the cafeteria or we can give it to families in need in the community, because I know there are several families here that each week I actually offer a food bags to them to go home. So, perhaps we can supplement some of those fresh vegetables and fruits to those bags as well. They have a sense of pride with that, that they’ve helped somebody, they’ve helped grown it, they’ve learned about it, and they can also take it home as well,” says Karson.

By: John Holcomb