Local STEM Charter School Uses Lowe’s Grant to Teach Gardening

Students at the Tallahassee School of Math and Science (TSMS) had an opportunity to get hands-on experience with gardening and nature recently thanks to a Lowe’s Home Improvement Toolbox for Education Grant, which funded four projects. The projects included building an edible vegetable garden, a butterfly garden, an outdoor classroom with cedar benches and adding some landscaping to the school.

The four projects were brought to completion in early November through the work of parent volunteers, teachers and students. While building the edible vegetable garden, TSMS developed partnerships with the Farm to School Team at Fresh From Florida, the Leon County Sustainability Office and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Leon County Extension Office, which began providing TSMS students with nutrition classes via the Family Nutrition Program this fall and also provided funding for the garden itself. With this help, teachers and students were able to plant fall vegetables in early October to be harvested Dec. 5.

“We are thrilled to have received the Toolbox for Education Grant from Lowe’s in order to teach our students about farming, gardening and the environment in a hands-on setting,” said Ahmet Temel, principal of TSMS. “With a vision to foster life-long learning in every child, we are proud to offer these lessons on healthy living to our students that will remain useful throughout their lives.” The school received the grant from Lowe’s last January.

TSMS will be hosting a “come and see” taste-testing event on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to noon. Students, teachers and the media will be joined by Tiffany Torres, Northwest District Food Systems Coordinator with the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program, to taste-test kale grown in the school garden and learn about urban farming from Blake Canter of Owen River Farm. Then, at 1 p.m., guests will have the chance to see the staging of a “Thank you, Lowe’s!” photo with students and Jim Jones, store manager at Lowe’s N.E., and Shaun Streetman, assistant store manager Lowe’s N.W., Tallahassee, to commemorate the completion of the school’s projects.

In addition to gardening, TSMS also has been teaching its students about raising chickens. Adil Demir, a science teacher, has been incubating chicken eggs in his classroom with the help of his students. The first batch of eggs hatched three chickens and the second group is projected to hatch in early December. The incubator, installed with a camera to record activity, was built by Demir and provides students with the opportunity to witness the chicken hatchings and learn the science behind raising chickens. Demir also built a coop to house the chickens at the school.

TSMS, a Leon County Schools Charter School, was founded in 2015 and serves students within the entire county and provides a well-rounded elementary and middle school (K–8) education focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as reading. “TSMS believes each student has a unique intellectual level, ability level and learning style,” said Temel. “With this in mind, TSMS creates an educational environment that addresses each student’s individual learning style and fosters within them a life-long love of learning.”