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RHMS students win national agriculture honor
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Editor's note: This competition, and the photos shown were taken before the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

Richmond Hill Middle School’s global sustainable agriculture project, led by teachers Shelly Henry, Robert Hodgedon, Brandi Miller and Hilary Diebold Taft, recently won a $2,500 award from Corteva and the National Science Teaching Association.

The award, “open to any K-12 science teacher who incorporates innovate agricultural science into their existing science curriculum,” according to a press release.

Here’s what RHMS said about its project, which involved its seventh grade life science classes:

“The students on our team have been involved in a year-long global agricultural sustainability project that focuses on the importance of small-scale community or village gardens in helping to meet the challenges of food insecurity. The project is based around the team’s research garden which, at 6,000 square-feet is the largest school-based agricultural research garden in the state of Georgia. In a telephone conversation with team teachers, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture, Gary Black, told the teachers that no other school was involved in growing projects anywhere near the depth and scale of what these students have accomplished.

Students have completed research on horticultural, real-world community or village gardens, the history of Victory Gardens (which are making a comeback during this current pandemic), community garden design, the garden as an ecosystem, and more. Students have been involved in growing their own vegetables in raised beds and creating a detailed model of a community garden using traditional drafting tools.

To learn more about real-world community gardens, students have been involved in Skype sessions with Bobby Wilson, founder and CEO of Metro Atlanta Urban Farm; Denford Chizanga, head of the African Development Mission Trust in Zimbabwe; and Murhula Zigabe, a grower in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who creates innovative vertical gardens from waste materials such as bottles in order to teach impoverished families in Bukavu, DRC and beyond how to grow their own food in marginal spaces. The research garden at RHMS was built and is sustained primarily through fundraising efforts and community and corporate donations of funds or materials.

Community partners include the Richmond Hill Rotary Club, Preferred Materials, Inc., Rayonier, the Richmond Hill Garden Club, representatives from the Department of Natural Resources, representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services, Coastal Electric Cooperative, Coastal Wildscapes, Savannah Quarters Country Club, Lowes, Georgia Southern University, and a number of national organizations and seed distributors. Hodgdon also acknowledges that the development and continuation of the research garden could not have been possible without the continued support and encouragement from a truly visionary leader, Dr. William McGrath. Bryan County School System’s superintendent, Dr. Paul Brooksher, also provided critical support and connections with corporate sponsors such as Raydient, LLC who funded the large greenhouse for the project. Students have been conducting research even throughout the summer since 2016 on which varieties of common garden vegetables grow best in our coastal climate. During the summer, 7-8 families sign up to do the summer research."

This information will be published and shared with the community during the 2020-2021 school year.

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