What do potatoes have to do with climate change?
It comes down to carbon, as students from the Juneau School District have learned.
Carbon, a byproduct of combustion, can be returned to the soil by plants, taking it out of the air. Students from the Juneau School District have been learning about the process, said cultural instructor John Smith III, and now they’re getting a chance to practice what they learned, planting potatoes and ginger as part of a summer school science course.
“The kids have studied, and now, they’re engaging with it,” Smith said in a phone interview. “They’re understanding more of what we can do as a community to solve some of the issues with carbon.”
The students also worked with members of a Sealaska Heritage Institute summer camp, said teacher Brita Steinberger in a phone interview.
“So we have been learning about carbon emissions and carbon offsets and looking at climate change and how it impacts this region especially,” Steinberger said in a phone interview. “The students are supposed to meet the 4H camp students and pass along what they learned.”
For the high schoolers, the gardening work comes as part of a summer school science course, designed to allow students to see how science impacts the community.
“They’ve been doing a lot of research about what the community’s been doing,” Smith said. “We’ve been watching a lot of videos about sustainability.”
The students and summer campers planted their plants in buckets they’d take home in the community garden in downtown Douglas.
“I feel like this is a way to reconnect with were food comes from and their ability to impact their own lives by producing a healthy product that they can consume themselves, with their families, share with others,” said Darren Snyder, who helps manage the community garden as part of the the University of Alaska- Fairbanks’ Cooperative Extension Service, in a phone interview. “There’s also job development skills. Cultivating a plant, keeping a living being alive.”
The day of gardening is a result of many organizations coming together to create a more impactful whole, Smith said, and an opportunity for kids catching up their science courses after the uncertainty of the pandemic to see science in the field while knocking out a class credit.
“We threw up a summer school because of COVID so we can get them caught up before the next school year,” Smith said. “It helps get the community together to do these events so there’s a lot more learning involved.”
The garden being used is as unique as the project, Smith said.
“This one’s got a lot of history,” Smith said. “The people who live here own the property and they let the community use the garden.”
Interested in learning more about gardening in Juneau?
Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, Cooperative Extension Service Tlingit and Haida Community Council and are holding a family workshop for those interested.
When: Sunday, June 13, 1-3 p.m.
Where: 3235 Hospital Drive, at the community garden behind the Tlingit and Haida Community Council Building.
How to register: Go to https://forms.gle/NDDwiHhD5drTSB2W6.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.