Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Laying the Groundwork; Summer Program Teaches Basic Science

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Laying the Groundwork; Summer Program Teaches Basic Science

Article excerpt

Byline: Amanda Williamson

The shelf held both a collection of makeshift hydroponic gardens and the attention of a cluster of Jacksonville high school students.

Already, the teenagers - many who've never participated in gardening - knew the procedures to keep their little crop alive. Jada Cummings, a 16-year-old member of Groundwork Jacksonville's Green Team, lifted her canister's lid and dipped a piece of paper into the water.

The paper, a soft yellow, turned blue-green as it reacted with the liquid's acidity level.

Just about neutral, Cummings concluded.

"Maybe one day I'll make my own garden with my family," she said.

With the skills she's learning at the Groundwork Jacksonville summer apprenticeship program, she just might.

The program launched three years ago with 10 students, and this year it is working with 20 more living in neighborhoods along Duval County's Emerald Necklace - a greenway project to connect the Northbank Riverwalk to A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, then Hogans Creek to the S-Line Rail Trail and west to North Riverside, McCoys Creek and Unity Plaza.

The goal, said Groundwork Jacksonville interim Executive Director Alyssa Bourgoyne, is to encourage youth to create healthy, environmental community initiatives and to consider future careers in science-related fields.

This year, though, the program is shifting.

Groundwork Jacksonville and Florida State College at Jacksonville recently partnered to offer new opportunities for FSCJ students to participate in environmental improvement projects in the urban core, while providing Groundwork Jacksonville access to FSCJ faculty and STEM programs. The nonprofit also moved its office to the downtown Advanced Technology Center located at FSCJ.

"I can't teach hydroponics or aquaponics," Bourgoyne said. "What I can teach is environmental values and hands-on projects that benefit [the Green Team's] neighborhoods along the Emerald Necklace."

What does this mean for the students? It means they gain an understanding of how to build environmental ethics into their everyday lives. Bourgoyne teaches them about littering, using recyclable and reusable products, biking as a mode of health transportation, and more.

Then, with FSCJ's help, they also access a full range of science, technology and engineering enrichment. Students learn from professor David Beall at the college about a variety of subjects - from food safety to epidemiology, from biology to hydroponics. Beall helps students connect what they learn in the physical exercises to what they learn in the classroom, FSCJ Dean of Arts and Sciences Sondra Evans said.

"Most of these students are from right here in the urban core - and it allows them to see what's right here in the neighborhood," Beall said. …

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