Edmunds Central was awarded a research grant for the next three years for $64,000 to promote education and consumption of specialty crops in South Dakota schools. This year we are working utilizing the growing systems in a classroom setting and developing a protocol for the systems for up to 50 other school classrooms beyond our district. Currently, we are growing approximately 70 varieties of specialty crops in preparation for implementing in other school districts.
Project ProposalThe Edmunds Central School District presents a proposal that would dramatically impact the exposure to and consumption of specialty crops by developing mobile classroom growing systems geared toward educating and providing opportunities to consume specialty crops not consumed by PreK-6 students in South Dakota due to limitations associated with the per student allocation for general education and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and obtaining such crops beyond their growing season in three phases: phase one will involve research and development implemented by the Edmunds Central science department perfecting protocols and curriculum associated with growing specialty crops in classrooms for education and consumption purposes during the 2017-18 school year, phase two will involve training up to 50 teachers during the summer of 2018 onsite to implement the same mobile growing systems in their classrooms, and phase three will coordinate their usage during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. Throughout all three phases, extensive efforts will be made to recruit and retain educators into the project and promulgate the concept of growing specialty crops in classrooms for educational and nutritional purposes through presentations, workshops, and published work.The issue of increasing consumption of specialty crops by South Dakota’s youth through education and increased exposure to specialty crops is central to the purpose of this project. In South Dakota students have limited options concerning specialty crops due to having school during the portion of the year when most specialty crops are out of season or the reality that many specialty crops are priced beyond the financial constraints placed upon school districts. Even the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program administered to many PreK-6 students throughout the school year in South Dakota places limitations on school districts that invariably lead to the classic “celery stick and carrot diet” of vegetables leaving many students clueless of the vast world of specialty crops and leaving them blind to their true likes and dislikes in food preference. While South Dakota’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is a major source of nutrition for South Dakota’s youth, constraints of serving fruit and vegetables out of season and on an average of $0.29 to $0.43 per student per school day, invariably, place tremendous limits on the diversity of specialty crops presented to students in school. South Dakota’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program has demonstrated through its own research that students exposed to fruit and vegetables through the program seek out these same fruit and vegetables outside of the classroom and heavily influence the purchases of their parents, as a result. Short of budgeting significant increases in funding for South Dakota’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program or moving school to the summer months, the next best solution to increasing exposure to specialty crops in a school setting is to make it possible and practical for teachers and students to grow and consume their own fruit and vegetables in the classroom. This allows for that snack time that occurs in almost every PreK-6 classroom each school day in South Dakota to become “specialty crop education time.” This allows teachers and students to become personally invested in specialty crops and requires them to be exposed to specialty crops that are often not considered practical for school snack or lunch programs. Such an undertaking will require an initial phase of researching light growing systems in a classroom setting to establish protocols and curriculum to make the cultivation and safe consumption of specialty crops in classrooms across South Dakota seamless and practical in working with existing science education standards mandated by the state and nutrition education standards mandated by South Dakota’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Once procedures are perfected for these growing systems in the Edmunds Central School District during the 2017-18 school year, summer workshops will be scheduled at Edmunds Central during the summer of 2018 for those teachers interested in the program to be trained on the growing systems and the curriculum developed in Edmunds Central during the previous school year. Up to 50 South Dakota educators from across South Dakota will be eligible to receive their own light plant cart growing system along with associated supplies, curriculum, and school year coordination and support upon completion of the workshop. These 50 teachers will be expected to implement the growing system and specialty crop curriculum in their classroom during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. Extensive data will be collected on student consumption habits and views toward specialty crops to identify successes and areas of possible improvement leading to published work and professional presentations to document the success and shortcomings of the program for interested stakeholders.Objective 1 Develop protocols for growing specialty crops in a classroom setting and associated curriculum to make implementing the consumption and education of specialty crops in a classroom environment practical for most educators through the usage of a mobile light growing system.Objective 2 Train teachers to utilize a mobile light growing system using the protocols and curriculum refined and assembled during the research phase.Objective 3 Implement mobile plant growing systems in up to 50 classrooms across South Dakota and coordinate their usage during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.Objective 4 Increase the consumption of specialty crops above and beyond districts’ Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and lunch programs by providing specialty crops that are not currently or commonly provided.Objective 5 Educate students about specialty crops through practically implemented curriculum aligning to state science standards and educational guidelines mandated by the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.Objective 6 Promote the concept and benefits of incorporating specialty crops in science and nutrition education through presentations, exhibits, workshops, and published work.