There's been a growing interest in gardens lately. Island Coast High School in Cape Coral is helping to lead the way to expand school gardens throughout our area for other students to benefit from.

The Lee County School District presented a regional session of the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom and UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program School Garden Leadership Training Series at Island Coast on Dec. 10. K–12 teachers from predominantly Lee County schools learned how to start or improve their own school gardens and integrate related information into curriculums. The session was originally scheduled for Oct. 8 as part of that month's nationwide Farm to School programming but was postponed due to Hurricane Ian.

The event started with a tour of the school's nine-year-old outdoor hydroponic and aquaponic systems — which yield peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, flowers, and more — led by the district's Environmental Education Resource Teacher Susie Hassett, Island Coast High School Agricultural Teacher Joe Mallon and Island Coast students and Academy of Natural Resources members Lucas Laurenti, John Bowers and Alexander Guthrie.

"My focus is 100 percent sustainability," said Mallon, noting the nearby solar panel, recycling equipment, and rain barrel. "We grow a lot of food here!"

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