LSU Ag Center, Bayouland, team with St. John schools to teach gardening

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

The LSU Ag Center in St. John the Baptist Parish and the Bayouland RC&D Council, a United States Department of Agriculture 501c3 non-profit organization, has partnered with the St. John the Baptist School System to teach gardening to students at three of the parish’s public schools. Three raised-bed gardens, each measuring about 5 feet wide by 20 to 24 feet long and 8-10 inches deep, were built at the three schools during September and October. The three schools are East St. John High, Emily Watkins Elementary and East St. John Elementary Schools.

The garden construction and planting was funded by a USDA grant, which was administered through Bayouland. The schools are able to use the Jr. Master Gardener curriculum, which was developed

by Texas A&M University. The schools can also use the garden to teach science concepts such as plant growth and soils as well as teach math concepts such as measuring the square foot and cubic foot size of the gardens, as well as other science and math concepts. The science process skills taught include observation, measuring and problem solving. The curriculum is designed to meet academic standards for science, math, language arts and social studies.

David Pichon, LSU Ag Center county agent for St. John Parish, and Jonas Augustine, junior master gardener coordinator for Bayouland, supervised the construction and planting of the gardens. Garden coordinators and committees were established at the schools to supervise the growing and maintenance of the gardens at the schools.

The first garden was constructed and planted at East St. John High School in Reserve. James Oubre,

science teacher, and Pattie Rodrigue, teacher and 4-H Club leader, serve

as the garden coordinators at

the school. The garden was constructed and filled with soil by the ESJ High School Environmental Club, which is sponsored by Oubre. Environmental Club members

actually nailed the garden’s

wooden frame together and spread 1 1/2 tons of soil and sand in the garden bed. Oubre’s science classes planted the garden on Sept. 9. Vegetables planted in the garden bed included tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, beets, radish, carrots, turnips, leaf lettuce and cabbage. Some vegetables were replanted because of the problems caused by Tropical Storm Lee, which hit the area shortly after the planting date. The science classes are using and caring for the garden during the first half of the school year. The Environmental Club and the 4-H Club will plant and care for the garden during the second half of the school year.

The second school garden was

constructed Sept. 16 at Emily Watkins Elementary School in Laplace. The garden at Emily Watkins School is being used by

the fourth-grade teachers to teach the fourth-grade students science and math principles. The garden coordinator is Sharon Diehl. The other fourth-grade teachers involved in the planning and supervision

of the garden include Connie Wallace, Casey Burnham, Rajean Populus and Sarah Valenzuela.

Most of the same plants planted

in the ESJ High School garden

were planted at the Emily Watkins School garden with the exception of the red cabbage, which is doing great.

East St. John Elementary School in Reserve is the site of the third school garden. Kelly Perret, fifth-grade teacher and 4-H Club leader, along with Sandra Guillot, art teacher and 4-H Club leader as well, supervise the use and maintenance of the school garden at ESJ Elementary. The garden was constructed, filled with soil and planted by Ms. Perret’s fifth-grade students. Similar vegetables were planted in this garden with the exception of tomatoes and cucumbers, which were not planted since it was so late in the season. The turnips and beets appear to be doing great, and the second planting of cabbage is starting to really grow well.

Plans are to expand the school garden program to several other schools including some of the private schools. David Pichon, county agent, stated that local sponsors are needed to help pay for the garden construction and materials to plant and maintain the gardens at the schools. If you or your business would like to sponsor a garden at one of the schools, please contact David Pichon, county agent- St. John Parish at 985-497-3261 to discuss your support. You may also contact him by email at dpichon@agcenter

If you have any questions, please contact your local LSU Ag Center County Agent. You can contact David Pichon, County Agent-St. John Parish at 985-497-3261 or by email at