Students learn life skills through gardening, raising chickens at school


In schools throughout Sumter School District, students are growing life skills by growing plants. In six schools in the district, student-run gardens exist, giving classes an opportunity to work with their hands and see visible, long-term results of sticking with a project, in this case, tending to a garden on a daily and weekly basis.

"It's a big family thing," said Danielle Last, third-grade teacher at Alice Drive Elementary School. "They're so proud of it. [The garden is] just so big and beautiful."

Last and her class are the primary caretakers of Alice Drive's garden, tending to their plants and chickens (which no other school has) every day during recess.

The other schools in the district to have gardens include Pocalla Springs Elementary, Lemira Elementary, R.E. Davis College Preparatory Academy, Alice Drive Middle and Sumter High School. Sumter High School is home to the Gamecock Gardens, a special education program that gives students with disabilities a chance to gain life skills by running their own garden business, caring for plants in the campus greenhouse and eventually selling or donating them to the community.

Another big emphasis of the school gardens is encouraging students to try new things, like fruits and vegetables they may have never tried, as well as show students how to be strong, independent people capable of not only taking care of themselves, but plants and animals as well.

"I try to give them the opportunity to grow these skills so that they can do this when they're older," Last said. "I just hope they keep with it … to gain that pride and confidence that comes with being able to see everything grow and drive after persevering through all that hard work."