For students at the Franklin County School, learning has recently become a little more hands on.

Thanks to technical support and program funding from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) extension office at Franklin County, as well as its Family Nutrition Program (FNP), six raised-bed garden boxes were installed at the school Oct. 9.

The garden, which will be used as a teaching tool for FCS’s agriculture education and culinary classes, is comprised of culinary herbs and seasonal produce such as kale, collard greens, carrots, lettuce, and cabbage, to name a few.

The culinary class, comprised of high school students eager to learn new life skills they can carry into adulthood, is responsible for maintaining the herb garden. Meanwhile, students in each of the school’s five agriculture education classes will care for the remaining five garden beds.

Once harvested, the culinary class will use produce from all six garden beds to experiment with new and exciting cooking techniques. By creating healthy recipes using fresh, whole ingredients locally sourced from the garden, students in both the agriculture and culinary classes will have the opportunity to sample “the fruits of their labor” while experiencing firsthand the challenges, benefits, and academic connections related to growing your own food.

In addition to using the garden as a teaching tool for those classes, FNP will use the garden to help reinforce health and wellness messages to students throughout the school who are receiving free nutrition education classes. FNP provides SNAP-Ed (Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program Education) to eligible Floridians using evidence-based approaches to reduce the risk of obesity and chronic disease. FNP provides community-based environmental approaches to increase food access and encourage healthier food choices. In the school system, FNP provides programming for pre-K to 12th grades. Students learn through interactive lessons, physical activity, taste tests, science experiments, and computer-based learning.

“A school garden can create a dynamic teaching experience where learning is carried from the classroom to the garden,” said Tiffany Torres, FNP food systems specialist. “The garden increases access to healthy food, and students learn important life skills that can stay with them forever.”

FNP would like to give a special thanks to Traci Moses, superintendent; Jill Rudd, principal; Bud Strange, facilities manager; Mike Todd, agriculture instructor; Debra Fletcher, culinary instructor; and Ace Hardware in Apalachicola for making this exciting educational opportunity a reality.

Heather Henderson is program assistant, for the Family Nutrition Program at UF/IFAS Franklin County Extension.