Penn State students build a garden to teach preschoolers about farming

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CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – A Penn State University agriculture class has created an outdoor educational space for the Children’s Express Center in Watercress to teach them the importance of agriculture.

After a month of planning, students and faculty began building the garden from scratch early Wednesday morning. The team planted fruits, vegetables and other herbs as part of a day’s work to help the children get started.

Class elder Justin Kurtz said it will hopefully give the kids a chance to understand how the plantation works and where their food comes from. The lesson is to show how agriculture impacts them in their daily lives.

“There’s a mix of plants that will attract some of the sensory elements so students can come in and smell them and interact with them,” Kurtz said. “Then we also have plants that are also edible. So we got blueberries, so instead of a student seeing a package of blueberries at the store. They can see the woody plant where the blueberry comes from. Which is quite interesting for them to see.

Farm literacy is trying to grow through state farm-to-school grants, which provide funds to schools to improve access to locally produced food and agricultural education opportunities. However, in Cambria County, there are not many educational opportunities.

Nursery director Rebecca Strunk believes the garden will allow students to enjoy fresh produce and avoid food insecurity as they will take the food home. It will also serve as another classroom to get them out and escape all the chaos.

“My kids don’t have a lot of real fruits and vegetables,” Strunk said. So for me, I said let’s learn this, because I think they’ll eat more of it if they grow it. So that was my thought at first. I want them to have space to hang out and have some peace and quiet.

Kurtz said he was proud of his class and his work to keep the garden running. He thinks that growing fresh plants, fruits and vegetables will inspire students to get excited about planting and farming.

“This is the next generation of consumers, farmers, conservationists, marketing managers, retail managers, storefront owners,” Kurtz said. “That’s why it’s super imperative that we teach our kids about farming.”

Strunk said students and parents are already excited to start using the garden, which will begin as soon as possible. She thinks it will attract more students to the center because it is one of the first of its kind. Once the weather warms up, they plan to add more fruits and vegetables.

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“I just can’t wait to see them. They are so excited,” Strunk said. “Parents are excited because the kids are coming home and talking about it and are really excited. There’s definitely excitement in the air for us.

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