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Florida School Offers Unique Horticulture Curriculum

Monday, December 4, 2017
Article by: Certification News

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Teaching Horticulture -- Middle and high school students at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind run the D & B Garden Center as part of their horticulture class curriculum. FNGLA PHOTO 

Nestled in the heart of America's oldest city, lies a garden center unlike most others. The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, located in St. Augustine, Florida, is home to the D & B Garden Center. It is a place where Instructor Jenny Palmer is using a unique curriculum to help students with varying degrees of hearing and vision challenges develop a love for plants.

Palmer uses hands-on activities, large print and plant images in her teaching exercises. 

Gage Vanderwef is a sophomore in his second year in the school's horticulture program.

"Color, sometimes, it'll have to be described...or the shape of the plant and, like, how it's shaped," Vanderwef said of plants. "Because, with me, I mean, I can look at these plants here, but on a picture, it's harder for me to see because, I guess, the contrast," he said, examining a plant leaf in his right hand." 

"That's one of the struggles, you know, of being visually impaired."

Palmer teaches agri-science standards to middle and high school students at the school as part of the career and technical education program. Her classroom includes several hundred square feet of flowering plants and succulents under shade cloth and a greenhouse currently having rolling nursery tables installed thanks to a recent grant. As part of the class curriculum, students run the D & B Garden Center where they care for the plants and offer them for sale to the public during the week and on some weekends.

The campus business allows Palmer to help students learn career skills to help prepare them for careers both inside the agriculture/horticulture industry and elsewhere.

"Right now, they're working on growing some plants and they're doing grafting skills," Palmer said, pointing out a few burgeoning green plant stems in front of the greenhouse on campus. 

The school, an FNGLA member, also provides students the opportunity to obtain industry certifications including FNGLA's Certified Horticulture Professional designation. 

"We have a minimum of three courses that students can move through," said Andrea Williamson-Armstrong, director of career development. "It increases their skill level and their knowledge as they go through the sequence of courses."

The ultimate goal of the program is to prepare students for and connect them with jobs in the horticulture/agriculture industry and beyond. 

One major way Williamson-Armstrong said she hopes to do that is through the help of industry professionals. She extended an open invitation for industry stalwarts to "come and talk about careers in the future, how to best prepare for jobs -- what kind of education that they need to be thinking about preparing for..."

Williamson-Armstrong added, "We do that here, but I think it would be really more impactful if somebody from the industry would come."

For more on the D & B Garden Center, visit Palmer's class site or send Palmer an email

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