Apr. 23—Months of digging in the dirt by students in Dalton High School's new botany class culminated last week with the sale of plants they cultivated.
"To see how far we've come in the first year, and the possibilities for the future, is really eye-opening for me," sophomore Rafael Maldonado said. "Anyone can grab seeds and plant them, but it takes a lot more than that to create life."
"You have to show a lot of care to them," freshman Diana Paola Garcia said. "It's about loving them, like a child."
Adding the new botany class this school year also led to the revitalization of the campus greenhouse, as students grew various plants in the greenhouse throughout the year.
"It's been well worth it, and we feel like we've done something big," said Annette Buckner, one of the botany teachers. "At this time last year, everything in (the greenhouse) was covered up, and you couldn't even walk in here, but now" it's full of plants, vegetables and flowers.
"We came into the greenhouse every day to water the plants, and it's hands-on work," said freshman Mia Peña. "It's hard work, sometimes, but you're doing it with people you like, and it's good to get your hands in the ground."
"The only bad part was coming in here on the really cold mornings," she said with a laugh. "I've improved my (planting) skills, and that's the point."
"I got to see the tiny little seeds, and seeing the growth has been amazing," said Paola Garcia, who was part of a parsley growing group. "It's been great."
"Everything has grown well, and there's lots of pride for the kids with what they've done," botany teacher Sharlinda Haight said on the first day of the sale. "Even this morning, they were preparing for the sale — these are all botany students working in here — and they were really proud."
Paola Garcia "wasn't a big plant person" at the start of this class, but "I've improved my knowledge," she said. "My mom is a huge plant person, and I'm going to help her in the garden now."
At the beginning of the class, Peña was not "that into plants, except for the ones from Hobby Lobby, because those were the only ones that didn't die on me," she said with a laugh. But, her group planted basil, and "it came out good."
Unlike Paola Garcia and Peña, Maldonado has "loved plants since I was little, so when I heard they were going to have a botany class, I was really interested and signed up," he said. "It's been (what I hoped) and more, (because while) I knew the basics, we get really deep into" horticulture in botany.
Peña had a better experience in the class when she was learning in person, as opposed to the stretch she spent in virtual education.
"We had to plant on our own at home (if learning virtually), but, virtual, it's just not the same," she said. "I like in-person (education) so much better than virtual."
The first day of the sale was open to Dalton Public Schools staff members, while the community was invited to shop the second day. Among the customers the first day was Jazmin Hernandez, a fifth-grade teacher at Brookwood School, who learned about the sale through her daughter, Maya Cruz, a freshman in the botany class.
"She wanted us to come buy her plants, but then we saw some flowers for our garden, too, and we want to support this class," Hernandez said. "I wish I knew how to plant — it's a great thing — and I encourage them to continue with this."
"They had great" selection, from various vegetables to many plants, Hernandez said.
"It's really, really good (inventory) — and the prices are even better."
In botany, Cruz "learned a lot about plants, like how, because they're all different, they require different amounts of sunlight, you need to fertilize them differently, and they have different diseases," said the freshman. "Trees, especially, they can get a lot of different diseases, but if you know the causes, you can prevent them from dying."
"I knew absolutely nothing about plants before (this class), but it's a lot of fun, (particularly) in the greenhouse, planting them," Cruz added. "I definitely recommend it (to other students), especially if you want to learn something new."