Pinecrest students experiment with a tower garden
by Mark Ledbetter
Apr 21, 2013 | 3631 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michele Colabrese, representing the Institute for America’s Health, demonstrates to Pinecrest fourth-graders how the Tower Garden is put together and how it can be used to grow vegetables and other produce. Mark Ledbetter/ The Daily Home
Michele Colabrese, representing the Institute for America’s Health, demonstrates to Pinecrest fourth-graders how the Tower Garden is put together and how it can be used to grow vegetables and other produce. Mark Ledbetter/ The Daily Home
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SYLACAUGA – Math and science students at Pinecrest Elementary School are getting a new learning tool — a “tower garden.”

Michele Colabrese, representing the Institute for America’s Health, and working with Way, a group dedicated to health education in the classroom, demonstrated to students Wednesday how the Tower Garden is constructed and how it operates.

The Tower Garden is the invention of Tim Blank, president of Future Growing.

According to “The Health and Wellness Newsletter,” Blank said, “My dream is that someday everyone will have access to healthy food in their own home and local community.”

The Tower Garden is a multi-level self-contained growing system that is mobile and can be used to grow most vegetables, herbs and flowers in less time that it takes them to grow in soil.

Colabrese said Pinecrest is a Way Model School and because Way is responsible for providing a butterfly herb garden, the Institute for America’s Health is working with Way to promote good nutrition.

Math and science teachers Kristy Harmon, Robbin Justice and Pam Roberts said they plan to use the Tower Garden not only as a way to incorporate math and science into the classroom, but also to promote nutritious eating.

Roberts said cooking carts will be available for classrooms and will be used to prepare food grown from the Tower Garden and give students the opportunity to taste what they have grown.

Roberts said that parents would also be given the chance to eat food prepared from produce the students have grown.

Sylacauga Grows Community Garden Head Gardner Bill Roberts said the yield from a tower is equivalent to a quarter of an acre. The reason for the yield is because the tower can be used several times during the growing season.

“If it works, we are going to try to work it out where we can use it in all the elementary schools,” Roberts said. “We already have raised beds at each school in the county, but we’ve never used these grow towers and we can grow more stuff without having to weed.”

The overall program is part of a grant through UAB, Roberts said, and UAB will study the effects growing a healthy garden and exercise will have on the lifestyle of the students.

“I think the first thing you’ve got to do is inspire them to want to do it,” Roberts said. “If they put something in the ground and it comes up, that’s it, they’re hooked.”

Roberts said part of a past Sylacauga Promise function distributed 1,500 small cups with a tomato seed in each cup and instructions explaining how to grow the plant.

“I can’t tell you how many kids came to me and told me how many tomatoes they got off their plants,” Roberts said.

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com