“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” Thomas Berry
At the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center, children are in classes for 300 minutes each day. The Kane County Regional Office of Education oversees the academic program in the detention center with the support of our teaching staff. One of the courses that students are assigned to is General Science. Teacher Sharon Sloan is a pivotal member of our teaching staff. She has been instrumental in bringing hands on science learning to the JJC students.
Last spring, Sloan built outdoor raised garden beds with the support of local master gardeners. In addition, she grows vegetables and herbs in tower gardens in her classroom. With the pandemic, the focus has been on keeping the students and staff healthy which has prevented visitors from coming to the JJC. Therefore, our local master gardeners have been unable to visit which was concerning as they are very helpful in maintaining the gardens and the garden club at the JJC.
This pandemic has not stopped Ms. Sloan from moving forward with the indoor and outdoor gardens. Over the past week, the students were able to get outside and plant seedlings in their garden beds that started in their classroom lab. This activity was very much enjoyed by our students as they had experienced an outdoor science class. According to Sloan, “I want to say that the residents/students did an absolutely amazing job out there in the garden”. Furthermore, Principal Ivars Spalis stated, “numerous students said they would be starting a garden once released from juvenile detention. One young man was insistent that he didn’t want to go out to the garden, but once he went out and begrudgingly tried it, his perspective transformed, and he now wants to join the JJC Garden Club”.
In the classroom, there are two garden towers that allow for students to work with plants and learn about them often. Students are permitted to sample the different plants such as basil and spinach while in the classroom. The indoor and outdoor gardens are an important component in the science curriculum and student engagement is maintained at a high level through instruction, experiments, and hard work.
The JJC Gardens are a community effort of the JJC administration, teachers, staff, food service, community volunteers, and USDA. Efforts are coordinated by the Kane County JJC Farm to School Program Committee made up members from the Kane County Development and Community Services Department, the JJC, and a Farm to School Program coordinator. The students will next be creating artwork for the garden. We look forward to seeing the gardens progress through the summer.