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Dogwood Elementary School begins “Beardsley Bookworms” program

A new after-school program is mixing reading, gardening and cooking to help some students learn a little more outside of the classroom thanks to Amerigroup, the fiscal sponsor of a the Beardsley Bookworms.
Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 6:08 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A new after-school program is mixing reading, gardening and cooking to help some students learn a little more outside of the classroom thanks to Amerigroup, the fiscal sponsor of a the Beardsley Bookworms.

Dogwood Elementary School first and second grade students dug in the dirt.

“I found another worm,” exclaimed a student!

They used magnifying glasses to study creatures found in composting on a Thursday afternoon when I recently visited the school.

“Watching them get excited about compost for example is great,” said Heather Palmer, the librarian at Dogwood Elementary.

Palmer’s the leader of “Beardsley Bookworms.” It’s a new program that started in January combining reading, gardening and cooking into an afterschool program for about 30 students.

It’s in partnership with Beardsley Community Farm where Charlotte Rodina’s the Co-Director of the CAC Beardsley Community Farm. She knew giving students knowledge of agriculture will help kids grow into well rounded East Tennesseans.

“I am so happy to do this because not only is it multi-faceted in that we’re getting to talk about a gardening topic but we also get to connect that with a cooking topic and a recipe and provide everything that the families need in order to make that happen,” said Rodina.

Monthly the students get a new food from the farm and learn a recipe to test out.

“It makes me happy because she gives us food,” said Austin Hurst, a second grade student.

“I like to be here because it’s fun,” said Luz Vazquez Rivera, a second grade student.

The kids get a book to weave gardening and cooking together.

“And it’s just something that’s close to my heart that I love these kids are learning something that they can use. It’s a life skill, not just something for a classroom,” explained Palmer.

Thanks to a grant and funds from Amerigroup, the afterschool program and materials for this endeavor are free.

The goal is to expand this program to other schools in the future.

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