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County strengthens area schools STEMs with seeds, plants | Environment

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County strengthens area schools STEMs with seeds, plants
County strengthens area schools STEMs with seeds, plants

Sarasota County, Florida -- Area school teachers are receiving sprouts for the future this week thanks to a program organized by the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences Extension Sarasota County in partnership with the Florida Farm to School program.  

There are more than 40 school gardens in the county, and 20 of those are participating in the collaborative effort. The seeds were donated by Sakata, Bejo and Champion Seeds, while the starter plants were grown by UF staff in conjunction with Ready Plants during the summer.  

"School gardens throughout our area provide hands-on learning opportunities, connecting students with STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," said Stacy Spriggs, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County Community and School Gardens coordinator. "The gardens are also a great environment for students to learn more about nutrition and gain an understanding of where their food comes from."  

The seeds and plants will be installed by teachers, volunteers and students in the gardens to be used as educational tools throughout the semester.  

"The starter plants are great for teaching transplanting, which is a skill students can use in their home gardens," said Dana Cales, a teacher at Venice Elementary School. "The students are excited about planting different kinds of vegetables that we haven't had before."  

Master Gardener volunteers are involved in the program and will assist to ensure the plants are thriving. Vegetables should be ready to harvest in late November to December.  

"This program saves teachers valuable time, eliminating the need to spend personal time over the summer break starting seeds, and allows them to focus on their new classes at the busy beginning of the school year," said Spriggs.  

Linda Ayad, a Wilkinson Elementary School teacher who received the seeds and starter plants, said she agrees.  

"Without the generous donations from Extension Sarasota County, we would not be able to enjoy the hands-on learning experience in the garden," said Ayad.  

UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County provides educational and technical assistance to teachers. Teachers, who are interested in starting a school garden, may contact Spriggs at 941-861-9815 or visit http://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu.