According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2019, only 14% of students with multiple disabilities spent most of their school day in regular education classes. John C. Myers Elementary School hosts 68 students with disabilities, with a growing multiple disabilities program that includes both local students and students from throughout the county who commute for the program itself. Without extended time in the regular education classroom, students with multiple disabilities are missing key opportunities for social skill and leadership skill building with same-age peers. The creation of a school garden would allow students with multiple disabilities to build key leadership, personal responsibility, and social skills while being able to produce a permanent product that can be seen by all. The garden can double as an outdoor classroom to get students with multiple disabilities out of the self-contained classroom and into new environments that authentically reflect the agricultural community of Broadway, VA. Through this garden, students with multiple disabilities and their capabilities will be seen and celebrated by John C. Myers community and beyond.
Many students with multiple disabilities at John C. Myers Elementary School have social skill goals related to interacting with same-age peers and using appropriate social, emotional, and leadership skills. The garden will be used as an authentic opportunity to track the progress of social-emotional IEP goals for students with multiple disabilities. In addition, academic IEP goals will be tracked as students can use reading skills to research gardening practices, mathematical skills to measure plant bed sizes and track plant growth, and writing skills to reflect on their experience and share their project with the community. Students will also gain authentic practice in following single and multi-step directions using task analysis. John C. Myers Elementary School has received grants for plants and materials to build the garden structure. We are seeking the mini-grant to be used to buy gardening materials including mulch, shears, gloves, loppers, garden forks, hand trowels, spades, rakes, hoes, garden hoses, watering wands, watering cans, and wheelbarrows. If we were to receive the Roots & Shoots mini-grant, we would have all of the necessary items to make our dream a reality and get our students out in the garden!