Dozens of students at the Seventh-day Adventist school in St. Eustatius, an island in the northern portion of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies, learned to plant and grow seeds at the start of the new school year, thanks to a new agriculture focus included in the school’s curriculum.
“Food production is critical for the St. Eustatius community, so we must double our efforts to teach the younger ones to do so,” said Laverne Duggins, principal of the St. Eustatius Seventh-day Adventist Primary School.
Since the school year began in August 2020, the entire school, made up of 85 students ranging from early childhood and kindergarten to grade 6, planted and harvested watermelons, sweet potatoes, string beans, papayas, sorrel, sweet peppers, and pumpkins.
When the school shifted to online learning in September due to the pandemic, students were given seeds to plant at home and were asked to document their observations in a journal daily, Duggins said. “Some classes planted on school premises, as teachers helped clean and keep up the vegetable gardens,” she added.
The curriculum focuses on tools and their proper use, soil preparation, planting seeds and seedlings, irrigation, caring for the plants, and recognizing when the fruit is ready for harvesting.
“It has been very touching to see the pupils’ excitement toward the program,” Duggins said. “One child from group 8, or grade 6, asked, ‘Why are they just starting the program now that we are moving on to another school? It is not fair.’ ”
Students posted pictures as the seeds germinated and grew and were thrilled to feast on their produce.
In-person classes resumed in October, Duggins said, and “although the planting area is small, if we specialize in just a few crops, it would help us accomplish our objectives.”
The program’s four objectives include teaching a greater appreciation for the field of agriculture; encouraging students to begin planting at home; encouraging them to grow what they would like to eat; and helping them become aware of the nutritional values of the various foods they have harvested, Duggins explained.
The intention is to produce goods to the point where they can sell the produce to the community, Duggins said. “This will give the students experience in the art of marketing and selling their produce.”
Gerene Joseph, education director of the North Caribbean Conference, congratulated the school for its excellent and exemplary demonstration of true education.
“The Adventist philosophy of education, the holistic development of the student, is evident in this undertaking, and it is a joy to see students partaking of the fruits of their labor,” Joseph said. “The lessons learned will certainly impact students now and in the future.”
St. Eustatius Seventh-day Adventist Primary School was established in 1997 and is the only Adventist church school on the island, which is part of the Northern Caribbean Union church region.