Educator Spotlight: Dawn Ellis

Dawn partnered with E.A.T. South about 2 years ago in an effort to build upon her classroom garden. Since then, her garden has grown to be an invaluable teaching tool for her students.

This garden has been a huge asset to student learning. My students are not only able to learn academic skills but also life skills.
— Dawn Ellis, Peter Crump Elementary School

E.A.T. South: What is your name, School where you teach and number of years you've taught?

Mrs. Ellis: Dawn Ellis, Peter Crump Elementary School, 8 years

ES: What made you decide to become a teacher?

DE: Since I was a child, I have wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t until I was in college and working with students with disabilities that I realized that special education would be my focus.

ES: How and Why did you get involved with E.A.T. South?

DE: Two years ago, my class took a field trip to EAT South after starting a small container garden at school. There, we met and worked with the fantastic staff for Good Food Day. Relationships were formed with the organization to equip not only our class garden, but also the teachers of our school with professional development. The following year, our class was selected as SPROUTS classroom, where an EAT South staff member implemented standards based lessons in the garden.

ES: How long have you been using a garden in your classroom and how do you use it?

DE: We have had a garden for 4 years. The students help take care of the garden as well as use it for an outdoor classroom to teach standards based lessons.

ES: What have your students eaten from the garden? Any favorite recipes?

 DE: The students have helped grow carrots, turnips, radishes, corn, watermelon, blueberries, and various herbs. We have made radish dip and used the carrots to eat it with. That was a class favorite. We have also eaten the turnips, blueberries and made pesto from the herbs!

ES: What has been your greatest accomplishment using the garden in your classroom?

DE:The greatest accomplishment from using the garden has been students retaining skills taught in the garden and are able to transfer that knowledge into classroom assignments. From identifying parts of a plant, to identifying lines and angles, the students are able to have real hands-on experience while learning outside therefore their knowledge deepens.

ES: What has been your greatest challenge using your garden in your classroom?

DE: The greatest challenge of the garden has been maintenance.

ES: Do your students have a favorite lesson using the garden?

DE: One of my favorite lessons in the garden has been teaching about the parts of the plants and lifecycle of plants. Students are able to see firsthand the growth and changes and also identify the different parts or stages. The students are able to pull up the radishes when they are ready and say “The part we eat is the root. It is red. The leaves and stems are green.”

ES: How has the garden impacted your students' learning?

DE: This garden has been a huge asset to student learning. My students are not only able to learn academic skills but also life skills.

ES: What advice would you give a teacher who is thinking of starting a school garden?

DE: My advice would be start a committee at school with other teachers, gain administration support, find a location with water access, and start small. There are several businesses that will partner with schools to help build a garden.

ES: What has been your greatest resource in your work with garden education and how?

DE: Community involvement has been the greatest resource in both the development and implementation of a school garden. 

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