GREENVILLE — Teachers from the northwest corner of South Carolina gathered in Greenville to learn more about how to use school gardens to sow student knowledge about healthy eating and garden-based science concepts.

Patricia Whitener, a 4-H agent from Greenville, explains how to build a worm bin.

Patricia Whitener, a 4-H agent from Greenville, explains how to build a worm bin to use in gardens.
Image Credit: Denise Attaway / Clemson University

About 30 educators from 18 schools met with Extension agents and community partners to learn more about how to use school gardens to teach their students the healthy benefits of eating fresh vegetables they grow themselves. (See related images) The event last month at the Clemson Extension office was part of an initiative funded by grants from Boeing.

“Research shows that if children grow it, they will eat it,” said Amy Dabbs, an area horticulture agent and Master Gardener coordinator from the Charleston Extension office.

All of the teachers who participated in the event have completed an online training course and now have gardens at their schools, said Patricia Whitener, a Greenville County 4-H agent. As part of the training, the teachers received pre-packaged gardening kits; calendars with planting, harvesting and crop rotation schedules; and vegetable transplants from Wabi Sabi Farms.

Laura Bell from Centerville Elementary School in Anderson said students at the school have learned about science and developing social skills by growing a garden.

“Some of the students who planted the garden at our school are in the special education program,” said Bell. “We also have students in the English as a second language program and students who have autism or are learning-disabled. This program has been great because it gives these students an opportunity to be leaders. They are growing vegetables and sharing these vegetables with other students. It’s great to watch how this gardening project has our students to interact with one another and how it has given students who might otherwise not have opportunities to be leaders be able to engage in a project that has campus-wide recognition.”

The first-grade class at Centerville Elementary School is using the garden as part of their science curriculum.

The teachers also learned about food safety and the Seed Fairy program from Zack Snipes, commercial horticulture Extension agent for Charleston. The Seed Fairy program provides seeds to school and community-based garden projects throughout South Carolina thanks to a donation from Botanical Interests. These donated seeds are distributed from the Clemson Extension office in Charleston and Greenville counties for use in nonprofit, school and community garden projects. Go to for more information.

Participants also learned about services provided by Clemson Extension Master Gardeners around the state, as well as the South Carolina 4-H Small Garden Project, a composting program provided by Greater Greenville Sanitation and the Ag in the Classroom program provided by the South Carolina Farm Bureau.

The program was designed to teach educators the horticulture principles so they can be successful building and growing school gardens. The program was developed in partnership with the College of Charleston’s Food Systems Change Initiative, a multiagency partnership that works to improve student learning and health outcomes with funding from Boeing South Carolina.