Island Coast High students create sensory garden for Buckingham Exceptional Center
By MELISSA BILL
Island Coast High School students started their spring break at Buckingham Exceptional Center by installing a handicap accessible hydroponic garden last Friday.
The garden’s construction takes into account the need for an all-access design. Each column of plants will be shorter and farther apart so that students who use wheelchairs are able to reach and travel between them.
According to Audrey Rebstock, vice president of Island Coast’s Future Farmers of America and senior member of Academy of Natural Resources, various plants were chosen for their feel and texture to be used in learning exercises.
“It’s a sensory garden that’s made to cover the main senses including sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste. We will have tomatoes, potatoes, mint, sweet potatoes, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables,” Rebstock said.
This marks the third hydroponic garden installed by the FFA students from Island Coast.
“We at Island Coast have the phrase of Science, Sustainability and Stewardship. The three S’s are what we do within every single project. We use Science as a way of teaching so that the students here at Buckingham can learn about plants and agriculture. For the sustainability part, it allows them to eat and to understand the importance of agriculture. Stewardship is about doing something for the betterment of not just yourself but others,” Rebstock said.
Another aspect of the program is to teach the next generation about agriculture said Rebstock.
She pointed to the extremely low numbers of Americans who go into agriculture, especially given the number of people that need food in the country.
“By exposing young adults to the field, it may create the desire to go into agriculture someday or build a garden at their own homes,” Rebstock added.
Island Coast’s Academy of Natural Resources created the first hydroponic garden in the district, and then last semester installed one at South Fort Myers and Riverdale High School.
Buckingham Exceptional Center teacher Tammy Bayly was responsible for spearheading the project at the school.
“I use to work at Island Coast and was there when they created their hydroponic garden. I knew Joe Mallon, the agriculture teacher of their FFA and Academy of Natural Resources. When I mentioned bringing one here, he was excited to create a hydroponic garden that was all-accessible,” Bayly said.
According to Mallon, last year the students worked to build a garden to feed their own school. This year’s mission was to create schools that were able to feed other schools.
“Every year our goal is to build a hydroponic garden system in at least three schools. This is our first all-accessible garden. Careful consideration was taken to create wider pathways and lower columns, so that everyone can enjoy the garden,” Mallon said.
According to Buckingham Exceptional Center Principal Dr. Ruthie Lohmeyer, partnering with other schools is the best part of the project.
“I love working with other schools. The teenagers and the public get the chance to come out and learn about our school. So proud of Tammy. She has been here just one year and has brought so much to this school already. I can’t wait to see the kids in the garden. Whether they are in a wheelchair or blind, they can still feel it and enjoy it,” Lohmeyer said.
Lohmeyer also thanked her staff for making this project a success.
“Our teachers and staff will do whatever it takes so that our kids can enjoy this garden just like everyone else, in the Buckingham way,” Lohmeyer said.
Buckingham Exceptional Center is at 3291 Buckingham Road, Fort Myers.
For more information on Island Coast High School Academy of Natural Resources visit ich.leeschools.net/our_students/academic_resources/Academies/academy_of_natural_resources
For information on Future Farmers of America visit www.ffa.org/