EWES students get hands-on agricultural experience

By: 
George Browning

With Washington County being primarily an agriculture community, East Washington Elementary School with the help of the Washington County Master Gardners is taking a hands-on learning approach.
The school corporation has two acres that elementary students use to plant, grow, harvest and market the things they grow.

School Board Member and Master Gardner Theresa Gottbrath said students grow pop corn, Native American corn, pumpkins and sunflowers.

“All elementary students do something with the project,” Gottbrath said.

Normally the fourth-grade students work to push plant the acreage, but this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Gottbrath said her family did the planting.

Every student gets to take home some of the pop corn grown on the farm and some is sold every Saturday at the Washington County Farmers’ Market.

She said third-grade students planted pumpkins and first-grade students planted sunflowers.

“It’s been a really good project,” Gottbrath said. “Everyone gets to come out at different times and take part in the harvesting. The teachers and administrators have been great promoting the project.”

She said in addition to students, staff and the master gardners, the Parent Teacher Organization also takes part.

Gottbrath said she also sells the Native American corn to an antique dealer in French Lick.

East Washington fifth-grader to be, Shaddix McGinnis, has been taking part in the project for the past four years.

“I think it’s great for the students, because they get to learn about agriculture,” McGinnis said. “We learn how to plant the pop corn, picking the corn and everything.

“School is usually about reading and writing and all the normal stuff, but with the popcorn patch, we get to learn about agriculture, which may help for anyone who wants to become a farmer.”

Gottbrath said the hands-on experience isn’t limited to farming. She said the project would give students experience for any agricultural career field.

McGinnis said there is another bonus besides the learning.

“We get to take it home and try it,” he said. “It’s really good!”

The two acres are sectioned off and different things are planted in different areas.

Gottbrath said they also teach students about rotating crops.

The plan was have a festival in the fall, but with the pandemic Gottbrath said she isn’t sure if they will be able to have one.

For now, visit the Washington County Farmers’ Market every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until noon to purchase items grown on the East Washington property.

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