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.



Free COVID-19 testing will be available to festival staff, participants and patrons every weekend of the festival this fall. (Courtesy Steven David Photography)
Texas Renaissance Festival to offer free COVID-19 rapid testing throughout season

Additionally, a free drive-thru testing site will be set up in Todd Mission on Sept. 19.

According to a Texas Supreme Court order, all eviction notices in the state must be accompanied with the CDC eviction order's declaration form. (Courtesy Pexel)
Texas Supreme Court issues order strengthening CDC eviction moratorium

The action aims to strengthen a federal order that renters' advocates say has been falling short in eviction court.

Jenny Normand owns and operates Shaka Power Yoga in Bridgeland. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact Newspaper)
Shaka Power Yoga in Cypress gets creative during COVID-19

During a year when many are more stressed and uncertain than ever, practicing yoga can help people find balance, clarity and well-being, according to Jenny Normand, who owns Shaka Power Yoga in Cypress.

Dr. Sam Rolon is a physician for Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group Creekside Family Medicine in The Woodlands. (Courtesy St. Luke's Health)
Q&A: St. Luke's physician shares advice on flu season, vaccine and prevention

The influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly all patients of all ages ahead of this year's flu season, Dr. Sam Rolon said.

student in mask
TEA launches statewide COVID-19 dashboard for public schools

The Texas Education Agency, in collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, has launched its latest COVID-19 dashboard for positive cases in Texas public schools.

The Houston Food Bank is looking for more volunteers as it handles increased food distribution during COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Food Bank)
Houston Food Bank: COVID-19 pandemic amplifies already-high food insecurity rates across region

Before COVID-19, the Houston Food Bank distributed about 400,000 pounds of food daily. That number has since increased to about 1 million pounds a day.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Sept. 17 that data from Texas' 22 hospital regions will dictate when certain businesses can reopen at 75% capacity. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, gyms can reopen at 75% capacity as early as Sept. 21

Nursing home and long-term care facilities will also be allowed to reopen for visitation as early as Sept. 24.

Jorge Rodriquez, owner of Tex-Mex Grill and Bar, said he wanted his love of Houston to be on display at his restaurant. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Love for Houston, Mexico inspire menu at Tex-Mex Grill and Bar

Born in Mexico, Jorge Rodriguez said he wanted his restaurant to reflect his love of both Houston and his home country.

Vehicles drive alongside the Tomball Tollway in Harris County. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Newly formed corporation could divert Harris County toll road revenue to non-mobility projects

A new limited government corporation formed by Harris County Sept. 15 could result in surplus revenue from the Harris County Toll Road Authority going to other county needs outside of the realm of transportation and mobility.

(Courtesy Curry Masala)
Curry Masala opens in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from Greater Houston.

One in five children and adults have a learning disability, according to statistics from the National Center for Learning Disabilities. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: National Center for Learning Disabilities expert discusses challenges of special education, remote learning during pandemic

The NCLD's director of policy and advocacy spoke about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on special education students and their development in and out of the classroom.