VMS Students Get Their Hands Dirty

Thanks to VHCC Greenhouse Manager Ben Casteel, students at Virginia Middle School now know that horticulture is both an art and science, that the last frost in our region occurs around May 10, and that organic gardening techniques are making a comeback.

Ben shared this information with participants in the VMS Afterschool Academy, a grant- funded program that has allowed VHCC to provide a series of hands-on career information designed to motivate students to begin planning for college. Thursday’s participants were encouraged to ask questions and even learned a thing or two about mycorrhizae. Then they were given the chance to put their hands in the dirt and plant a flower or vegetable to take home.

Students could choose between peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, basil or petunias. After learning how to plant the tiny specimens in a cup, Ben gave them tips for taking care of their plants until time to put them in the ground.

“You need to water it a few times a week,” he said. “If it feels kind of heavy, it probably doesn’t need water. If it’s real light and the soil is a light color, you probably need to water it a little.”

Criss Golden has worked closely with VMS teachers to coordinate activities for participating students. In addition to the horticulture activity, he arranged for students to visit campus, participate in a Reality Store program, and learn about biology and engineering from faculty members Kevin Hamed and Tom Tidwell.