With Lower School STEM teacher Robin Peacemaker putting her agronomy degree to work on the project, Loudoun Country Day School’s garden lab won’t be going dormant this winter.
Peacemaker took over coordination of the garden this year and now has teamed up with Virginia Tech to help her students conduct some new experiments to determine the best winter grains to be grown in Loudoun’s climate.
While each year teachers do most of the weeding and harvesting in the garden, which features tomatoes and other crops and flowers, Peacemaker saw the opportunity for students to become more hands-on.
“I wanted to plant some winter crops. Farmers plant a lot of winter crops because they want to keep the soil from eroding and to grow feed for their animals. So, I decided we are going to plant winter wheat,” she said.
She reached out to agronomy professor Carl Griffey in Blacksburg for suggestions, who responded almost immediately with a desire to help her develop a STEM-based exercise for the winter garden.
Students weeded and composted two of the lab’s raised beds and last week planted varieties of wheat, oats and barley and seeds sent from Virginia Tech and LSU. Through the winter growing season, they’ll be monitoring the growth of each plant and recording the difference in their development.
Peacemaker said it has been a fun exercise for the students.
“Children don’t get dirty anymore,” she said. “I had my seventh-grade girls come out here digging in the dirt and they were like, ‘This is so satisfying.’”