ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Researchers are conducting a study with 14 Orangeburg elementary school students to improve their well-being through gardening.
"Especially with COVID, some children had trouble bouncing back and positively seeing things," said lead researcher and assistant professor Dr. Antoinette Hollis. "It started off us just saying we would like to help the student's attendance, with any behavioral concerns, and their ability to bounce back."
It's a new virtual research program implemented for fourth graders at Mellichamp Elementary. South Carolina State University's 1890 Research & Extension Program funded $500,000 for the program for three years. Students received a box filled with garden supplies to observe the process of growing vegetables and fruits while connecting with nature.
"That's what we are working on with these children to reconnect them with nature. By doing so, we are seeing a lot of growth in them," explained Therapeutic Horticulure Practioner Beth Bruno. "Some children are saying they are doing better in school since joining the horticulture therapy program."
"The pandemic took a toll on my son," expressed Orangeburg parent Starlette Jean. "He is that hands-on person, but he loves school."
Jean says she has seen her son Malachi become more engaged with how nature works and reacts.
"There were different things he saw around the house, or if we went different places, he wanted to put items in his discovery jar to show those instructors that he was doing the work," said Jean.
The therapy program will continue next school year with the same students when they are 5th graders. Instructors hope the program is expanded to more schools in the district once they present school officials with the final research.