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Thursday, July 20, 2017

MISD Students with Special Needs Learn to Grow and Give

The group picked more than 20 pounds of produce in one day.
Every Tuesday and Thursday this summer, Mansfield ISD agricultural science teacher Keven Smith had two things on his mind—teaching life skills to students with special needs and giving back to the community.

Smith and the students went to the Ron Whitson Agricultural Science Center to feed the farm animals. He then took them over to a garden where they harvested produce to donate to local food pantries.

“I got together with MISD’s special education SUCCESS programs, and we started the SUCCESS garden three years ago. Students would come out and plant, and we would later harvest the food and give it to local food pantries,” said Smith. “We have harvested thousands of pounds of fresh foods like watermelon, okra, and squash so far.”

Smith said he loves instilling the knowledge of agriculture into the children’s lives. He wants them to know that fresh food does not magically appear in the stores.

“My goal is to teach them how important farming and ranching is,” he continued. “It’s not a career choice of the past. We need those jobs to sustain life. Also, people have the power to grow their own food, and they should learn how to.”

This year, the agricultural science teacher solicited the help of high school volunteers to provide another social element to the experience.

“I like that I get to help them,” said Kaitlyn Weitzman, incoming sophomore at Mansfield High School. “My brother has special needs too, and they don’t always get the chance to explore and do as much as they are out here.”

After a day of picking, the students got to fish in the local pond.
Smith will continue to instill the love of cultivation into young learners in the upcoming school year. He hosts pumpkin patch field trips, farm animal visits, and he is partnering with the new Tarver-Rendon School of Agricultural Leadership to teach core content and leadership skills through agricultural-based experiences.

Although his summer program has wrapped up, Smith said he is excited to start planting more crops for an even bigger harvest next year.