PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Students are growing and harvesting their school lunches as a way to cultivate a healthy lifestyle.
Amateur gardeners at George Washington Elementary in Eleanor have been hard at work learning lifelong lessons.
The work began when students helped build a high tunnel. Inside is filled with garden boxes, flowers, vegetables and an atmosphere where they're learning science, math and healthy habits.
"At first I thought why are we having a high tunnel but now I see it's a very, very good way to learn responsibility," 5th grader Liyah Bady said. "I have fun at school without having to sit at a desk the whole entire time."
Students started with seeds and soil only to see their plants sprout to something much bigger and more rewarding.
WVU extension agent Chuck Talbott planted the idea in the principal's head at George Washington Elementary School. He says it's part of the "farm to table" program where students from preschool to 5th grade are learning what it takes to tend to the garden.
"It's beyond my dreams," WVU extension agent Chuck Talbott said. "You know our specialty crop is really our kids. We're growing our kids and we're trying to get them interested."
The young gardeners are proud of their plants growing everything from cabbage and snap peas to lettuce and carrots.
"It's cool that we get to eat what our school has actually grown," 5th grade student Drake VanNoy said. "And it's harvested all by ourselves."
"They're trying food that they normally wouldn't try and it's just been amazing," principal Mary Beth Myers said. "It's rewarding because they are doing this. That is the key."
The food that isn't served for lunch is recycled as compost. That soil produced is used as fertilizer for the plants in the high tunnel.
"I go to 6th grade next year and I'm kind of sad about that because I would love to do this next year," Bady said. "Right now, I'm just taking advantage of being out here everyday."
A $5,000 grant and lots of donations have helped make everything possible. On Thursday, students will present what they've done and what they've learned to school leaders and county officials.
Teachers are also sending tomato plants home with the students this summer so they can keep gardening.
Plans are already in the works to start a similar program at West Teays Elementary School.
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