STEM skills blossom through Ready to Grow Gardens

Stephanie Baker operates Ready to Grow Gardens at 15 Cy-Fair ISD elementary schools, teaching students about gardening while also growing fresh fruit and vegetables used in school cafeterias.

Stephanie Baker operates Ready to Grow Gardens at 15 Cy-Fair ISD elementary schools, teaching students about gardening while also growing fresh fruit and vegetables used in school cafeterias.

For Stephanie Baker, founder of Ready to Grow Gardens, a community program that started as a volunteer requirement to earn her Master Gardening certification led to a full-time job.


In 2002, the stay-at-home mother of two was volunteering nearly every day at Sheridan Elementary School on gardening projects. Along with the school’s principal and the district’s science resource center, she developed a curriculum for elementary students.


Since getting her start in Cy-Fair ISD, Baker has expanded the program to Spring Branch and Montgomery ISDs as well as three private preschools. She said she is looking to expand to Tomball and Klein ISDs in the near future.

“Every school we work with has two elements: a vegetable garden to grow food and a butterfly garden to observe habitats,” Baker said. “[They see] the seasons change, planting the seeds, caring for them, harvesting them and enjoying them.”


PTO groups and Title I funds support the program, and local businesses can sponsor schools as well.


Schools decide which grade levels participate in the program, and Baker’s team of five educators teaches lessons that reinforce what students learn in the classroom. Ready to Grow visits each school about once a month and maintains the gardens in between visits.


At least half of the time Baker has with students is dedicated to hands-on activity and observation. Students might add compost to the garden or tag monarch butterflies to track their migration patterns.


“Each lesson has a worksheet, and there’s always a place to write what they see, draw what they see and record the weather like a scientist would,” she said.


Not only does the science department benefit, but others can also use the space. For instance, language arts teachers can bring their students out to the gardens for creative writing assignments about nature.


School cafeterias also feature fresh fruits and vegetables from the gardens on the lunch menu. The program reinforces nutrition, team building, patience and an appreciation for nature, Baker said. 


“We listen to what the teachers need and want to make it useful to each campus,” she said.

By Danica Lloyd
Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a Cy-Fair reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She became editor of the Cy-Fair edition in March 2020 and continues to cover education, local government, business, demographic trends, real estate development and nonprofits.


MOST RECENT

An effort to widen White Oak Bayou is one of several flood mitigation projects that are moving forward in Jersey Village, according to a series of Nov. 30 announcements. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Contract approved for two flood-control projects in Jersey Village

Two flood-control projects in the city of Jersey Village are moving forward after city council members unanimously approved two contracts at a Feb. 22 meeting.

Houston City Hall in rainbow lighting
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce celebrates five years of service

The organization is open to all and serves members throughout the Greater Houston area.

The new Fort Bend Epicenter multipurpose facility could be used as a spot for trade shows and sporting events, could act as a large-scale shelter for county residents in an emergency and more. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Large multipurpose complex coming to Fort Bend County; Sugar Land to widen University Blvd. and more top Houston-area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather. (Community Impact staff)
Q&A: Greater Houston Builders Association President Keith Luechtefeld discusses power, plumbing, frozen pipes after Winter Storm Uri

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather.

Harris County ESD No. 11 commissioners met for a meeting Feb. 25. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Harris County ESD No. 11 begins construction process on new facility

District offiicials have said they hope Phase 1 of construction will be complete by August.

Winter Storm Uri led to closures across the Greater Houston area during the third week of February. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
‘It’s been a rough year for us’: Expert explains economic effects of winter storm, ongoing pandemic in Houston region

“It's been a rough year for us economically; it's been a rough year for us public health wise. It's just been a rough year for us psychologically—first the coronavirus and then the freeze," said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research with the Greater Houston Partnership.

The $560 million central processor, which is part of the new Mickey Leland International Terminal, will replace the parking garage for terminals D and E. (Courtesy Houston Airport System)
Parking garage at George Bush Intercontinental Airport to be demolished to make way for new Mickey Leland International Terminal

The international central processor, which is part of the new Mickey Leland International Terminal, will replace the parking garage for terminals D and E.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.