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Students from the Environmental Science career education program at CHS led Centerville Washington Park District employees on a tour through their garden project, which included viewing the three large garden beds and demonstrating their sustainable farming techniques.

Walking out the doors and across the parking lot at Centerville High School, you would never expect to peer through a fence opening and see an incredible garden project.

“I’ve had a garden all my life and grew up on a farm, so I know firsthand the educational benefits of agriculture, both on a large or small scale,” said Robert Erwin, who leads the Environmental Science career education program at CHS. “Everything that you see out here is a student project. It’s just a great testament to what kids can do.”

On Oct. 22, students from the Environmental Science program invited employees from the Centerville Washington Park District to tour the garden. Back in 2018, CWPD helped with the initial ground breaking and tilling of the garden space. Throughout that school year, students constructed the raised beds, started growing seeds in their classroom, bent hoops, and incorporated compost into the soil.

Since then, the work has expanded to include three large garden beds that grow everything from arugula and mixed greens, to radishes and carrots, and even pollinator-friendly plants. Their organic produce has been sold to local restaurants, including Old Scratch Pizza and Power Plant Juice Bar, and donated to BOGG’s Mobile Meals program.

The student-led Environmental Science team has worked to modernize their techniques, including testing soil for minerals and nutrients, working to implement a solar-powered irrigation system, and finding creative ways to integrate pest control, such as raising chickens. They even collect waste products from CHS for their compost bins, including food scraps from the high school’s three cafeterias and sawdust from the woodworking classes. In the past three years, the Environmental Science students have collected and composted over 25,000 pounds of waste.

“The garden is a big part of our class. There’s a lot of community building, learning how to take charge when you need to, and a lot of problem-solving,” said CHS senior Daphne Cannon, who serves as president of the Environmental Science FFA Chapter and hopes to one day help improve farming methods. “It definitely helps us learn about dedication and time management.”

Abigail Derham, a senior from Kettering Fairmont High School who plans to study chemical pollution in college, agreed, “It’s definitely about teamwork, making those commitments, and if you say you’re going to do something, you follow through. It also teaches that you can rely on others. When I need help with something, I can go to my peers.”

Last week’s tour was a chance for CWPD employees to see how far the garden has come in the past three years and to get an idea of the kinds of hands-on experiences it is providing for CHS students.

“Today was a great opportunity for us to hear all about this incredible, edible, initiative that’s growing right next door to the high school,” said Ken Carter, CWPD’s park operations manager who helped with the initial ground breaking. “It’s just awesome to see our partnership with the school grow into something like this.”

Environmental Science is part of the career education program, which is a collaborative effort between Centerville, Kettering and Oakwood High Schools that offers 19 distinct programs for juniors and seniors. During their junior and senior years, environmental science students study topics like soils, wildlife management, solid waste, water quality, GPS/GIS, air quality, OSHA compliance, and forestry management. They can also obtain professional licenses and certifications and college credit.

Centerville City Schools serve about 8,200 students in Centerville and Washington Township in southwest Ohio, offering a variety of educational programs to a diverse student population. The district operates 13 school buildings, as well as two preschools and a bus facility with more than 120 school buses that transport students daily to public and non-public schools. Visit www.centerville.k12.oh.us for more information.

Image of student describing garden project to larger group while pointing at garden beds


Image of student demonstrating tilling tool to large group


Image of student describing garden project to larger group while pointing at garden beds


Image of students showing off chickens and coop to larger group


Image of Centerville Park District employee holding chicken while standing with two students


Image of two students lifting cover to show plants underneath


Image of student describing garden project to larger group while inside hoop house