WAXAHACHIE — The latest project undertaken by Common Ground Ministries will provide students the chance to put their hands on learning.

The non-profit will soon begin construction on a greenhouse to teach students the finer points of agriculture and horticulture.

“This is our community greenhouse project and will start operation with the new school year beginning in late August or September. We are going to teach our children to raise food and the food will be used to feed the children at common ground. We will raise three crops a year — one crop during each school semester and one crop during the summer,” Common Ground Vice President Jim Jordan said. “What are children will do with the excess of two of the crops is donate them to Waxahachie Care to help feed the hungry in our community. The third crop they are going to take to the farmer’s market. They are going to sell the vegetable to raise funds for common ground. It is a wonderful opportunity four our children. It is a learning opportunity for our city-dwelling children to learn how to raise food.”

Jordan added that the greenhouse would also teach students self-reliance and responsibility all while helping the community at the same time.

According to the Common Ground Ministries' website, it is a non-denominational, Christian-based, after school and summer, mentoring and tutoring program for the children on the east side of Waxahachie. Currently, the ages of children that can be accepted are kindergarten through fifth grade. Common Ground’s after school program includes a reading acceleration program, math program, Bible lessons, snacks and recreation time.

Jordan said Common Ground received a $3,041 donation from the Dart Foundation to fund the project. He also expects for the greenhouse to be about 1,200 square feet and provide 30 spaces for students to work. Construction on the greenhouse is planned to start this summer, but volunteers will be needed to help during the construction, Jordan said.

“We received a wonderful grant to fund the entire project from the Dart Foundation. They are being very generous to us. This will provide the materials for our greenhouse. It is going to be ecology friendly. That was in the initial grant request,” Jordan said “We have the funding to provide for rainwater recovery with our greenhouse and some other items that will make it have less impact on our environment. We will raise our vegetables and water them with the rain water that the Lord gives us right on our property. We are thrilled about that.”

According to the Dart Foundation website, the foundation is a private family foundation established in 1984 by William A. and Claire T. Dart. Founded in Mason, Michigan, the Dart Foundation continues to be headquartered there. Because of this, the mid-Michigan area has long been a focal point of Dart Foundation philanthropy, the website stated.

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP

Common Ground community greenhouse project will also be partnering with the members of the Waxahachie Senior Activity Center. The students will take trips to the senior center to learn from the experiences of the members in the field of agriculture and work with them in their gardens at the center.

Waxahachie Senior Activity Center Director Jeanee Smiles said the center has embarked on a new project with an inter-generational approach to teaching. Students from not only Common Ground but also other originations— such as the Waxahachie Independent School District, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and homeschooled groups — can visit the center to learn from its members.

With this, Smiles said a student could learn, not only about gardening but also several ways to be environmentally friendly in the outdoor learning lab the center is looking to construct. Smiles disclosed plans for the lab include naming the area the "Living Today for Tomorrow Next Generation Education STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematic) Garden."

“The Stem Garden program will provide educators and students with a physical location at the Waxahachie Senior Activity Center, which has ample room for the garden, extra classroom space within the facility and parking for transportation of the students to the STEM garden. These educators are certified STEM teachers, seniors with a world of knowledge and other educators that will fit the program and its innovative use of gardening as its method in which to teach science, technology, engineering and math,” Smiles explained. “Working in cooperation with these educators, our classes will have the ability to range from water conservation alternative energies usage, land and soil management, food production, sustainability, botany, biology, life sciences and more. Supporting these classes will be a technology sector integrated into the garden providing computers and Internet access which gives the students hands-on experience.”

Smiles added the scheduled field trips would connect the two generations and provide a unique learning experience. Some of the retired professions from the center that will be teaching students include engineers, teachers, doctors and nurses, as well as members of Ellis County Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists. The STEM Garden is not funded by the City of Waxahachie but will be funded through donations individuals and business and grants. The center is currently applying for grants and seeking donations.

For more information about Common Ground Ministries, visit its website at www.cgmwax.org. For more information about the Waxahachie Senior Activity Center, its staff can be reached at 469-309-4280. Additional information can also be found on www.waxahachieseniorcenter.com.

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