Posted March 5, 2020
Top photo: Cocky's Reading Express visits Gilbert Primary School.
A new partnership between Dominion Energy and the University of South Carolina's literacy outreach program will help teach gardening and nutrition skills to elementary school students in Lexington County.
“Sow the Seeds of Reading” is a new initiative from the existing UofSC program Cocky's Reading Express. Based at the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy, CRE’s goal is to eradicate illiteracy throughout South Carolina.
"Dominion Energy is committed to improving the quality of life in the communities we serve,” Dominion Energy South Carolina President of Electric Operations Keller Kissam said. “This new partnership with the University of South Carolina will help improve students’ literacy and teach them how the science of gardening can create a better diet.”
The community-based environmental and nutritional literacy program launched last fall at Gilbert Primary School in Gilbert and Riverbanks Elementary School in West Columbia. UofSC students and mascot Cocky visited both schools and read to the children. A $25,000 grant from Dominion Energy helped fund gardening and nutritional books for approximately 1,200 pre-K through second-grade students. Each school also received an indoor hydroponic “tower garden” and a variety of seeds.
Tower gardening uses much less water and space than traditional soil gardens. This vertical system grows plants in air rather than soil. The sides of the tower have pockets for holding seedlings while its base holds a water-nutrient mixture. An electric pump sends water upward inside the tower, then drips it down onto the roots of the plants.
"The tower garden has quickly become a source of interest and excitement among our students, staff, and families,” Gilbert Primary principal Will Moody said. “By placing the garden in our main lobby, all of them can observe our plants as they grow. This has been a wonderful addition to our school and has sparked a renewed curiosity in science.”
During a Family Literacy Program night, families receive a free kit and tips on how to promote literacy in the home. The kit includes environmental- and nutritional-themed books for children, and a copy of the cookbook “Greek Revival from the Garden: Growing and Cooking for Life” written by former UofSC first lady Patricia Moore Pastides.
Riverbanks Elementary librarian Jeanette Pine said the tower garden is portable and can be moved into individual classrooms. “This gives us the ability to involve every child who is excited about a project to grow and eat their own food,” she said. “We’ve enjoyed being able to tie this in with read-alouds and take-home books.”