Garden party at Cox Elementary


By Scott Halasz - shalasz@aimmediamidwest.com



Scott Halasz | Xenia Daily Gazette Four students in Xenia’s XTAR program work on constructing vertical garden, which will grow lettuce without dirt and minimal water. XTAR partnered with the Central State University Extension and 4H Youth Development to help address food disparity.

Scott Halasz | Xenia Daily Gazette Four students in Xenia’s XTAR program work on constructing vertical garden, which will grow lettuce without dirt and minimal water. XTAR partnered with the Central State University Extension and 4H Youth Development to help address food disparity.


Central State University Extension employee Clare Thorn helps fifth grader Lily Mackiewicz with a newspaper pod.


Fifth grader Makayli Marinelli works on a newspaper pod, in which she will place seeds.


XENIA — A group of gifted Xenia elementary school students learned some news ways to help overcome food disparity in the United States.

And one wants to take the fight all the way to the White House.

Partnering with the Central State University Extension and 4H Youth Development, members of XTAR at Cox help pilot a vertical gardening program Feb. 13. Vertical gardening uses aeroponics — the same technology NASA uses — to grow plants with only water and liquid nutrients rather than dirt. Vertical gardens can be constructed virtually anywhere, allowing people who live in a food desert or who have no usable soil in the yards to grow their own vegetables.

“We want our students to be change agents,” XTAR coordinator Donna Shaw said. “We’re already talking about how we can relate this to the real world problem of food disparity. We can do things locally to provide hope for someone else.”

Students constructed the vertical garden and planted lettuce with the help of extension representatives.

After watching a video about the food disparity and related issues, Fifth grader Lauren Johnson decided to write a letter to enlist the help of the most powerful person in the United States, President Donald Trump.

“He is one of the most richest people, especially for his age,” she said.”I wanted to give him details about the video. I’m just trying to get to the point and ask Mr. Trump if he can donate $1 a day to feed Americans.” Johnson added that if the president already gives money, she hopes he will give more.

The extension officials also aided the students with making biodegradable newspaper pods, which can go right into the ground and leave no waste.

“It’s to make them think about how we’re going to feed nine billion people in 2050,” said 4H Youth Development Coordinator Jodi Black.

Students saw the project as a useful way to help people obtain food and to learn at the same time.

“There are certain places where they don’t have a lot of space to grow their food, so growing it up helps a lot,” said fifth grader Sophia Garrett. “I like that it’s teaching us how we can solve problems and it’s giving us hands-on experience, which I personally like.”

The project runs four weeks, at which time the lettuce will be ready to pick from the vertical garden. The newspaper pods will be sent home with students once they begin to grow.

“It’s healthier food,” Black said. “There’s no time in transport. They know what’s in their food.”

As part of the unit, Shaw and gifted teachers Amanda Johnson and Leah Pham are going to use a fundraiser and sponsorships to help provide free fresh fruit or vegetables for daily snacks, instead of the kids using XTAR money to make the purchase.

Scott Halasz | Xenia Daily Gazette Four students in Xenia’s XTAR program work on constructing vertical garden, which will grow lettuce without dirt and minimal water. XTAR partnered with the Central State University Extension and 4H Youth Development to help address food disparity.
https://www.xeniagazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2018/02/web1_DSC_5588.jpgScott Halasz | Xenia Daily Gazette Four students in Xenia’s XTAR program work on constructing vertical garden, which will grow lettuce without dirt and minimal water. XTAR partnered with the Central State University Extension and 4H Youth Development to help address food disparity.

Central State University Extension employee Clare Thorn helps fifth grader Lily Mackiewicz with a newspaper pod.
https://www.xeniagazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2018/02/web1_DSC_5583.jpgCentral State University Extension employee Clare Thorn helps fifth grader Lily Mackiewicz with a newspaper pod.

Fifth grader Makayli Marinelli works on a newspaper pod, in which she will place seeds.
https://www.xeniagazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2018/02/web1_DSC_5584.jpgFifth grader Makayli Marinelli works on a newspaper pod, in which she will place seeds.

By Scott Halasz

shalasz@aimmediamidwest.com