Embarking on assignment with USVI Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator Mr. Akil Andrews and led by VIDE Technology Specialist Sherline James, I had the opportunity to tour a UCF grant program at Claude O Markoe School in St Croix. During the tour, we visited the green space garden and learned about the various projects undertaken by the students focused on sustainable fresh produce and medicinal uses of trees.
The tour commenced with a visit to the garden, where students actively engaged in cultivating and nurturing different plant species. Under the guidance of Todge James of “Jungle James” petting zoo in La Grange Frederiksted, students explored the boundless potential of nature while gaining hands-on experience in responsible conservation, and valuable gardening practices. The garden itself was a vibrant testament to their dedication and hard work, adorned with lush greenery, vegetation, and plant labeled descriptions that symbolized growth and learning.
One of the biggest aspects of the school garden was the emphasis on the medicinal uses of trees. Each class undertook projects centered around a chosen tree by studying its various medicinal properties and creating a video about what they learned. The students showcased their newfound knowledge and creativity by presenting their projects via YouTube, enabling them to share their discoveries with a wider audience by promoting agriculture and education.
The green garden not only served as a platform for project-based learning, but also as a treasurable source of fresh produce for the school community. Students and teachers were treated to a variety of house grown options such as kale, spinach, starfruit, lettuce, banana, tomatoes and more. This initiative encouraged healthier environmental practices and enabled students to sense an appreciation for their hard work and conscious organic eating. Moreover, the garden represented an opportunity to teach sustainable farming practices and inspire a sense of pride among the students and staff alike.
No tour would be complete without acknowledging the visionary leaders behind this extraordinary project. Principals Ms. Thomas and Ms. Ambrose played pivotal roles in supporting the creative process for Forestry initiatives at Claude O. Markoe Elementary School. Their efforts enabled the implementation of the Urban and Community Forestry grant school program and support by generous volunteers such as Todge James. By implementing more forestry grant proposal programs like these among our schools; we can introduce a “living classroom” and encourage more students to value nature and its potential to heal, nurture, and educate.
Here are a few links of the great educational videos created by students from the garden at Claude O. Markoe Elementary School.