Midway Hills Academy STEAM program continues to shine


EDITOR'S NOTE: Compiled by Eric Jones, the coordinator of school & community relations for the Baldwin County School District.

At Midway Hills Academy, STEAM Teacher Stephanie Coxwell and Food Corps resident Hope Jarrard embarked on an inspiring journey that united education, gardening, and innovation. Last year, they seized an opportunity to showcase their dedication by submitting a video for "Kids Garden Month" to Kidsgardening.org. Their submission, titled "Grow Together," not only demonstrated their gardening prowess but also clinched a remarkable victory, propelling their educational initiatives to new heights.

Their story began with a STEM project centered on repurposing water bottles into hydroponic planters."I knew part of the whole reason why I wanted to teach this class is to incorporate more gardening into steam and nature into steam," said Coxwell, "I particularly liked the idea of upcycling materials. So students and teachers started bringing me their bottles, and I saved them the entire year. So that every student at MHA would be able to pick a plant and take their own plant or home to start their own garden at home."

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Inspired by the success of the hydroponic endeavor, Coxwell approached Jarrard with a novel idea: to create an instructional video that would share their innovative gardening techniques with a wider audience. Collaborating on the concept, they recruited two of their garden club members, Janorick and TaRenzzo, to star in the video, imparting the art of crafting upcycled planters. "She (Coxwell) had this brilliant idea to get Janorick and TaRenzzo to teach how to make these DIY hydroponics and I took them outside to the garden and made her vision come to life," Jarrard said, "so I call her the brains and I was the brawn."

The team's aspirations materialized when they learned of their victory, securing one of the first-place prizes. The rewards included a $500 grant for the Midway Hill Academy’s garden, sets of kids gardening gloves, a treasure trove of assorted seeds, and an assortment of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day cleaners – a personal favorite of Coxwell's. "Several students have stopped Mrs. Coxwell in the hall to tell her that they still have their water bottles," Jarrard said, "so it's really made a big impact on kids growing their own food and flowers at home."

Plans are already in motion to extend the initiative, with ambitions of introducing new projects – including the creation of milk jug mini greenhouses, which students can take home to foster their gardening passions. Their journey encapsulates the potential of harmonizing education and hands-on experiences, nurturing a profound appreciation for nature and sustainability among young learners. Through the art of gardening, the Midway Hills community truly does "Grow Together."

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