There is good reason Point Hill Leased Primary and Junior High School emerged winner of the recently held St Catherine 4-H Achievement Day School Garden Competition.
The educational institution, located in the constituency of St Catherine West Central, is taking a holistic approach to agriculture, with students using the activity to improve their numeracy and literacy skills, better understand trade and entrepreneurship, and develop a deeper appreciation for growing what they eat.
“We are trying to prevent our students from graduating, going into society and becoming what we call unattached youths. We are giving them hope and we are helping them to know that agriculture is important,” said Shernette Powell, principal.
“Not all students are going to be academic persons; there are students who have the knack to just do hands-on things. We are teaching them the basics of agriculture from now, so they will have more interest in it in the future – not only believing it is all about getting dirty. You can be an entrepreneur and oversee acres upon acres of crops and animals; you can make money from agriculture.”
The students, with support from teachers and parents, plant and reap a variety of cash crops such as callaloo, pak choi, kidney beans, okra, and escallion.
Powell said she acquired two rabbits and wants help to repair a chicken coop at the school to expand the agriculture programme, which involves students and five educators – all members of the 4H Club. There are other clubs at the school, but they focus on other skill areas.
The principal, who launched the agriculture component since she started her tenure in September last year, said proceeds from the sale of crops are channeled into the 4H Club, and then reinvested into the agriculture programme.
“The vegetables and other things that we harvest, we use in the canteen and teachers also buy them from us,” added Powell, who is also National 4-H Club President for Jamaica, the Caribbean and Central America.
She further told Jamaica Beacon: “The proceeds of sales at the school are going back to 4-H so we can develop our garden into a model garden for St Catherine. That is what I am trying to do. We are going to go larger with our garden. Of course we need some help because we don’t have all the things we need; we are really improvising. Truth be told, however, the garden is doing well so far.”
Powell, who said students are ecstatic about being involved in the initiative, elaborated on how the agriculture programme is being used to improve literacy and numeracy at Point Hill Leased Primary and Junior High.
“The school garden is not just about planting crops; we also use it to help in our literacy and numeracy areas. We do farming in rows and columns; the students are now learning about rows and columns in Mathematics.”
“In the garden, we write a caption for all the different crops. This is how students get literacy. They are learning to spell; they are learning to read; they had to read how to use pesticides – everything. The garden is a holistic approach,” Powell explained, adding that students are also taught how to market their produce outside the school.
By Horace Mills