It may be difficult to get kids to eat their veggies, but at North Augusta Middle School a group of young gardeners are learning to love to grow them.
Gardeners of the Galaxy is the gardening club at the school. Students just finished their first round of meeting and growing, which culminated in a Thanksgiving dinner last Tuesday for club members and their families.
Some kids in the club joined to make friends and said they have. Some, growing up in a world with consistent global warming threats, said they joined to learn about the environment.
North Augusta Middle School has raised beds and a greenhouse; and, this year, they've been used to grow vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, broccoli and more), native flowers like Black-eyed Susans and herbs.
"This is my first year at NAMS," said club adviser Kristen Shuford. "When I was interviewing with (Principal Kimbra Meek), I saw that we have all these unused raised boxes; and I said, 'I would really love to do something with them,' and she told me to go for it, which was really nice."
Gardeners of the Galaxy had around 25 members this year. The club's name is a spinoff of the Marvel Studios movie "Guardians of the Galaxy."
"I feel like we always have our face in a screen, and we don't really go outside much anymore, and sometimes we need to experience what it was like before things like that were invented," said seventh grader Evahnee Sweeney.
Shuford said she has seen kids in the club take on more responsibility, adding it was hard at first to get students to water the plants daily, but now there are multiple kids who want to garden each day.
"I think the main thing that we want them to learn is where their food comes from and what it looks like and how they can kind of take ownership over that," Shuford said.
"Because we also have native plants, too; it’s trying to teach them the importance of taking care of nature and making sure … that we have pollinators and they have a home. Our goal is to make this not just a place for them to grow food but also a place for them to grow a native wildlife habitat."
Harold Vaughn and Lat Blount are also advisers of the club.
Students who took part in the club rattled off things they'd learned in an interview: Don't leave water on leaves, make sure plants have proper soil and what plants aren't safe to eat.
"It's a lot of fun to be around kids your age and be outside at the same time, while learning, which I know the learning part would probably attract people elsewhere, but it's a lot of fun to be out here with all your friends and be able to learn stuff about plants," said seventh grader Abby Westbrook.
Sixth grader Ashlee Davis echoed that, saying, "It's really fun to learn new things that you've never learned before."
On Nov. 19, the club held a Thanksgiving feast. A table in Shuford's classroom was covered with food brought in by the students and their parents. At the end of the table was a bowl of lettuce, the only plant that was ready for harvest by the day of the feast but which was grown by the students.
Principal Meek stopped in on the feast and told the students she was impressed the kids can go out and grow things, adding that she has a black thumb.
"I'm impressed that you guys can go out there and do this, because that's not something that I'm very successful at, so I love watching you out there with the teachers and the faculty…" she said.