From seed to harvest: Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS students enjoy the fruits of their labor
Students at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Pennsylvania’s Children’s Behavioral Health Services (CBHS) center are learning what “farm-to-table” truly means.
Devereux Pennsylvania’s CBHS Mapleton School, located in Malvern, Pa., recently launched a greenhouse and community garden program to teach students, ages 8 to 18, how to grow their own vegetables using aeroponics.
Aeroponics, a technology utilized by NASA, is the process of growing plants without soil – using only air, water and nutrients.
“Our students are involved in the growing process every step of the way – from seed to final harvest – and they absolutely love it,” said Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS Director of Administrative Services Scott Carter. “After deciding what vegetables they want to grow, our students plant the seeds in rock wool, watch them sprout, and then place the plants in aeroponic towers – or vertical gardens. In about three weeks, they can taste the fruits of their labor.”
A healthy dose of food and science
Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS Education/Transition Coordinator John Madonna and Director of Nutrition Services Nicole Walters, RD, lead the greenhouse program.
“Each class at the Mapleton School maintains its own aeroponic tower garden,” Madonna explained. “Students learn how to monitor, measure and adjust the temperature and pH level of the nutrient solution in the towers to ensure their vegetables are healthy and growing.”
In addition to teaching students new and unique ways to garden, the greenhouse program provides therapeutic and nutritional benefits.
“Our students – even the vegetable-averse – love picking tomatoes and leaves of lettuce off the tower and eating them,” Walters noted. “This program teaches our youth the importance of a balanced diet and healthy eating, and introduces them to a new world of taste sensations. The greenhouse has other health benefits, too. We have found that it is a great place for students to go when they need to relax and unwind.”
Growing the greenhouse program
In May, the greenhouse program expanded outdoors to include four raised garden beds with additional farm-to-table crops. Program staff plan to use a significant amount of their harvest in kitchens on campus, and further enhance the school’s cooking classes by introducing the crops into recipes.
“We are not only cultivating superior crops, but superior students, as well,” Carter shared. “The life and vocational skills our youth are learning in this program will benefit them now – and in the future.”
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