South Orangetown Central School District

South Orangetown Middle School Technology teacher Louis Chugranis leverages students’ prior elementary school gardening experience to take their knowledge and skills to the next level by incorporating agriculture, energy conservation and sustainable design into the middle school curriculum.

His students have been working on several garden projects in the workshop, courtyard and newly-built, micro greenhouse. Year-round, students learn about soil as they plant and care for fruit and vegetable seeds, plants and trees, which are transplanted into the courtyard garden beds in spring. Lessons on energy and photovoltaics connect with a solar light installation project to extend natural light for plant growth. Students have also been introduced to hugelkultur, no-dig beds which utilize leaves, clippings and branches to soak up rainfall and provide plants with much-needed hydration.

Students reflected that they value spending class time in nature. “It’s refreshing to be outdoors learning,” noted eighth-grader Arlana B.

Elizabeth M., also an eighth-grader, added, “I’ve learned that you can plant anything here and it will grow. It’s a great spot.”

Chugranis is hopeful that his students are learning the importance of environmental stewardship. “The work we do in the garden gives students a chance to learn practical skills, get their hands dirty, work with tools, and learn all about dirt and bugs,” says Chugranis. “What they learn in the garden will leave a lasting, long-term impact on how they think of agriculture, food production and sustainable technology and energy.”

Students peek through the SOMS greenhouse garden