PhotoKatherine Sokolowski, an educator at East Garner Middle School, is using her Teacher Innovation Grant to build a school garden with her self-contained middle school class.

Over the course of the year, her students are planting butterfly bushes and growing produce like lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, peppers, and potatoes, in a garden that will be available for students for years to come.

Like most Teacher Innovation grant projects however, this garden is more than a creative way to meet middle school science objectives. This engaging, hands-on experience is particularly valuable for students with disabilities. While studying plant life and maintaining this garden, Katherine’s students have the opportunity to solve real-world problems and develop critical thinking skills as environmental challenges arise. Working in a garden also exercises motor skills and requires communication among students and with vendors at the Farmer’s Market.

Although their academic success will be measured by unit tests, Katherine is confident that her students’ success will far exceed the curriculum. By developing their social skills and nutritional attitudes, this unique, collaborative Teacher Innovation Grant is setting up students for lifetime success.

For more than 30 years, Teacher Innovation Grants have helped inspired teachers foster growth in Wake County students inside and outside of the classroom.