Planting a seed: College students study gardening, carbon sequestration


What do potatoes have to do with climate change?

It comes down to carbon, as students in the Juneau School District have learned.

Carbon, a by-product of combustion, can be returned to the soil by plants and removed from the air. Students from the Juneau School District learned about the process, said arts teacher John Smith III, and now they have an opportunity to practice what they have learned by planting potatoes and ginger as part of a summer science school course.

“The children have learned and now they are doing it,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “They better understand what we as a community can do to solve some of the carbon problems.”

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The students also worked with members of a Sealaska Heritage Institute summer camp, teacher Brita Steinberger said in a telephone interview.

“So we found out about CO2 emissions and CO2 offsets and looked at climate change and its effects on this region in particular,” Steinberger said in a telephone interview. “The pupils should get to know the 4H camp students and pass on what they have learned.”

For high school students, gardening is part of a summer science course that allows students to see how science affects the community.

“You’ve done a lot of research into what the community is doing,” said Smith. “We watched a lot of videos on the topic of sustainability.”

The students and summer campers planted their plants in pots that they took home in the community garden in Downtown Douglas.

“I feel like this is a way to reconnect with the origin of the food and its ability to affect their own lives by creating a healthy product that they, their families, and others will consume and share said Darren Snyder, who helps manage the community garden as part of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Cooperative Expansion Service, in a telephone interview. “There are also skills for professional development. Cultivate a plant, keep a living being alive. ”

Gardening Day is the result of many organizations coming together to create a more impactful whole, Smith said, and an opportunity for kids to catch up on their science courses after the uncertainty of the pandemic to see science in the field while also getting a class credit to forgive.

“We puked a summer school because of COVID so we could catch up with them before the next school year,” said Smith. “It helps bring the community together to run these events, so much more learning is required.”

The garden used is as unique as the project, said Smith.

“This one has a lot of history,” said Smith. “The people who live here own the property and leave the garden to the community.”

Want to learn more about gardening in Juneau?

Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, Cooperative Extension Service Tlingit and Haida Community Council and organize a family workshop for those interested.

When: Sunday, June 13th – 1pm – 1pm

Where: 3235 Hospital Drive, in the community garden behind the Tlingit and Haida Community Council Building.

How to register: Go to

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or