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Sanger ISD receives grant for community garden

L-R: Ken Scribner, Sanger ISD School Board President; Tammy Austin, Sanger ISD Coordinator of Instructional Technology; Sara Foster, Foster Farms; Tom Foster, Foster Farms; Valerie Foster, Sanger Education Foundation Executive Director and Sanger ISD Community Outreach & Homeless Student Liaison; Dr. Sandra McCoy-Jackson, Sanger ISD Superintendent.

Sanger ISD has been named a $25,000 grant recipient for the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, and celebrated with a check-presentation ceremony on September 10, 2018. “The district plans to use the grant to bring mechatronics as well as student altruism, which will have a significant impact on the students and our community,” said Tammy Austin, Sanger ISD’s Instructional Technology Coordinator. Sanger ISD was one of three Texas school districts to receive a $25,000 grant from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program. Abbott ISD and Levelland ISD were the other two districts receiving funds as part of the program. Spearheading the nomination of Sanger ISD for the grant was Thomas Foster, who learned of the grant project through an agricultural magazine. He and his wife, Valerie, who runs the Sanger ISD Community Outreach Program as Foster Care and Homeless Liaison and is also Executive Director of the Sanger Education Foundation, nominated Sanger for the grant. “This is a small example of what the Fosters have done and continue to do for this district,” school board President Ken Scribner said on Monday during the check presentation ceremony. As part of this project, students will participate in the building and support of a community garden in the form of a greenhouse and an outdoor garden. Students will not only plant and cultivate the gardens but they will also study it and complete experiments based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills as a way to enhance learning, engage the students, increase interest in the program, and increase standardized test scores. “We’ve got kindergartners who are already learning how to code and use computer programs,” Valerie Foster said. “When you take that to a level where they’re able to problem-solve, the opportunities are endless.” Students will be participating in a mechatronics program (the integration of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science) to use rainwater collected in barrels and compost from the garden as well as the Ag Barn to grow the food in the garden and feed our FFA animals. The food that is raised will become a part of Sanger ISD’s Friday Backpack community outreach program that provides hungry students food for the weekend, as well as to feed Sanger FFA animals. Tammy Austin and Valerie Foster plan to supplement the grant money by reaching out to businesses and members of the community for additional project needs, such soil and seeds, gravel, electricians, and plumbers. “Students will be taught how to grow food as well as creating the system to make the sustaining of the food source easier,” Tammy Austin said. “Students in third through 12th grades will learn 3D software with older students using engineering and computer science to build the automatic watering and automatic fertilizing at the greenhouse and community garden as well as the automatic feeder at the Ag Barn.” “We’re an agriculture community, and incorporating technology is important to us as a district,” Superintendent Sandra McCoy-Jackson said. “Any time you can mix together what you love, it’s very exciting.” Students and their teachers will also recycle rainwater as well as barn, yard, and garden waste to water and fertilize the garden, which will include our younger students’ calculations in exactly what plants need when. The garden, which will hopefully eventually include a separate greenhouse, will benefit students in many capacities. “Our kindergarten through 12th grade students will be able to conduct experiments and ensure they understand the math and science expected from the state of Texas. Students in the culinary courses can also use the food to practice their skills, creating their own recipes as part of their coursework,” Tammy Austin said. “Students in the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources courses will contribute greatly to the success of this program through their knowledge of plants and animals. Students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classes will be responsible for maintaining the systems which will provide fertilizer and water in the greenhouse and garden and food in the Ag barn.” America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education was introduced in 2011 to partner with farmers to support their local school districts. The program offers farmers the opportunity to nominate rural public school districts to compete for merit-based STEM grants of either $10,000 or $25,000. Since 2011, more than $16 million has been awarded to over 900 rural school districts to enhance math and science education. Each year, $2.3 million is granted to about 165 school districts in rural communities.

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