BPSF grants teacher gardening supplies at Odom Academy

BPSF grants teacher gardening supplies at Odom Academy

Agriculture students at Odom Academy celebrated with teacher Will Humber after he received a grant from the Beaumont Public Schools Foundation for gardening equipment to serve his classes and other participating middle school students during the organization’s Fall grant caravan Thursday, Dec. 17. For his “Gardens Galore” project, Humber received supplies from a grant totaling $ 964.95 including shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, water hoses, all-natural fertilizers and insecticides, potting soil and seed trays.

The middle school campus has enlarged its garden area by six times and was in desperate need of more gardening equipment. The major goals of the Gardens Galore project are to teach students about community responsibility and how to live a sustainable lifestyle through growing one’s food. Harvested crops will be shared with needy families. The project calls for a winter garden as well as a spring garden. The entire middle school student body will be invited to participate.

This is not Humber’s first award from BPSF. Earlier this year, during BPSF’s Spring caravan in May, Humber received a grant for his “Here a Chick, There a Chick, Everywhere a Chick, Chick” project. For that project, he requested and received a grant for funds to purchase a new incubator and a goat shelter for Odom students. At the time, Humber said his son, Keaton, loaned him about 20 chickens to produce eggs. Some of the eggs are sold at the campus’ produce store, Odom’s Organics, and some of the eggs are put into the incubator for students’ observation and to hatch more chickens. Students built a shelter for the birds and care for them with Humber’s guidance. They can purchase their own chicken to care for as part of the agricultural endeavor, as well.

Humber said one goal of his project for which he was awarded the grant in Spring was to add Boer goats to the on-campus animal population to teach kids practical skills and give them a rare opportunity to interact with animals they would not normally encounter. So, his students built a shelter similar to the chicken house but larger in scale in order to house the goats. Now, the campus is home to four Boer goats as of Dec. 17, and Humber and his students could not be happier. “The goats love being around the chickens,” Humber said, pointing to the new goat pen where the goats are housed right next to the chickens. “They get along great.”

Humber said his son Keaton, who is now a student in the program at Odom, has been a “big help” with various agricultural projects at the campus, even before he started attending the middle school himself.

“Technically,” Keaton said, “this is my first year, but my dad has been doing this for years. So, I have been involved (in agriculture) since I was about 3.”

Keaton said he loves to work in the gardens and with the chickens and goats at the school. He and classmate Enrique Barajas often work with the new goats and are getting the animals adjusted to their new home at Odom Academy.

Principal Tillie Hickman said Humber’s projects are great learning experiences for Odom students.

“They are really learning so much,” Hickman said of her charges. “They are probably learning as much math and science with these projects as they do in their math and science classes.”

Students use organic fertilizers and pest control. They have to research all issues that arise and must come up with solutions to those issues themselves.

Odom’s Organics, the store that the students helped build and where they sell produce grown in the school’s organic gardens and more, is currently closed for the season, but Humber said he plans to reopen in January 2014 if all goes according to schedule. Currently, Humber said the winter crops are growing, and the radishes, turnips, beets and other veggies are “looking good,” so look for the store’s reopening next year to get some delicious and nutritious all-natural produce.