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Expanding Literacy in a Delta Garden

Posted on: July 1, 2018

Literacy grows in a garden. Just ask Ankyla Russell.

“I never knew that ‘Marigold’ was a type of flower. I never knew that word, not before this camp,” said Ankyla, a 5thgrader at Leland Elementary School. “I want to be a teacher when I grow up, and what I’m learning here will help me be a better teacher.”

The “camp” is the Leland Summer Literacy Camp, one of six summer programs offered by the Delta Health Alliance and its Deer Creek Promise Community.   Partnering with the Leland School District, the camp serves 100 rising 1st– 5thgraders from Leland and prepares them to be life-long readers while learning about science, gardening, art and the society around them.

“We want to teach these students that education is fun,” said Jessica Thomas, who oversees the camp. “We do that by offering hands-on activities like gardening.”  Also, said Thomas, “The literacy camp helps stem summer learning loss and provides a valuable activity for students who might otherwise be home playing video games.”

Funded by grants from U.S. Department of Education, the camp and the garden work together to create an outdoor classroom where students can sit at picnic-style benches and hone their math as they configure growing spaces, and learn a new vocabulary centered around gardening.  Such activities dovetail with students’ regular school studies.

Ankyla is bringing home the knowledge she’s gained to use in her family garden, working alongside her grandmother to share new information. “I explain to her about pollination and how honey is made,” Ankyla explained. “It just makes gardening a lot more fun when you can understand what’s happening and why it’s happening.”