By Curt Yeomans
Kenneth Crider has lived around gardens for most of his life.
His parents have had two gardens at their Jonesboro home since he was 5. In one garden, his family has tulips, different types of ivies, and other forms of plant life. Food bearing plants, like tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries, grow in the other garden.
Crider, 15, a sophomore at Jonesboro High School, said plants are in his blood because of the exposure.
That's why he was immediately interested when he got to Jonesboro High School last year and found out the school offered classes in horticulture.
"They say you should make school fun, so why not go ahead and take a class you like," Crider said.
Jonesboro, Riverdale and Mundy's Mill high schools are the only Clayton County schools offering classes either in horticulture, or agriculture. Those schools also have Future Farmers of America chapters because of the horticulture and agriculture classes. They will celebrate National FFA Week Saturday, through Feb. 28, with events like roadside cleanups, and "FFA Awareness" days.
Horticulture students learn about various types of plants, how they grow, and what they need to survive. Schools which offer classes in the subject have greenhouses where the students grow plants, and take care of them by providing water and pulling out weeds.
While less than half of Clayton County's high schools offer courses in horticulture, Jonesboro horticulture teacher Chansi Coleman said it is not an uncommon class in Georgia. She said there are more than 300 schools across the state which teach those subjects.
"There are only a few counties that don't have horticulture, or agriculture programs in at least one school," Coleman said.
At Jonesboro, students grow plants like ferns, Wandering Jews, Dianthus flowers, and spider plants.
Phallen Jackson, 17, a senior at Jonesboro High, said she takes the class to better understand what her mother, Cynthia, does as a landscaper. Jackson's older brother, Fabian, also took the class when he attended the school.
"My understanding of gardening has changed because, when my mom did it, I thought you just put the plant in the ground," Jackson said. "I've learned you have to raise them before we plant them, through the germination process."
Austin McCormick, 15, a freshman at Jonesboro High, said he took the class because he too grew up around people who like to garden, and work with plants.
"My mom and dad really like to garden, so I grew up around this stuff, and it seemed interesting to me," McCormick said.
Avril Calhoun, 16, a sophomore at Jonesboro, and the secretary for the school's FFA chapter, said she liked being in the club, and taking the class, because of FAA competitions which are based on horticulture. The competitions include being able to name various types of plants, and growing a flower.
While Calhoun did not come from a gardening or landscaping background, like some of her classmates, she is OK with what the horticulture class demands of her.
"It's all right," Calhoun said. "I don't mind getting dirty."