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Jones County focusing on growing great minds as kids return to school

'Great minds grow here' is the theme for students at Dames Ferry Elementary School. Students are learning from a STEM curriculum but also about agriculture.

JONES COUNTY, Ga. — 'Great minds grow here' is the theme for students at Dames Ferry Elementary School. The long-term projects they have for their kids seem to support this theme.

"Just since we've started the stem initiative around 7 or 8 years ago, I've seen such confidence being built in my students, especially the ones who have difficulty learning," said Dames Ferry teacher Ashley Ivy.

The Georgia Department of Education certified Dames Ferry for STEM courses. The school is entering another year with science, technology, engineering, and math on the student's and teachers' minds, but this program is a little different.

"We have a stem initiative that's focused around agriculture. We have different long-term goals per grade level that contribute to agriculture," said Principal Wes Cavender.

Kindergarten focuses on hydroponics, which is growing plants without using soil. 1st grade monitors the weather and how it affects the animals the school has and 2nd grade cares for the animals. 

"3rd grade is composting. Our soil isn't too good around the school, so that helps with growing things. Our 4th grade is pollinators. We have bee hives to help pollinate. 5th grade is bat boxes. We have a mosquito issue in certain places around campus, and bats help control the mosquitoes," said Cavender.

Each student received 5 appropriate STEM-related books in the spring to read over the summer to keep the kids' brains active through the vacation months. 

They were able to add the books to the Jones County summer reading challenge log, which gives the students points for reading.

"Each grade level contributes together for the common goal of developing or increasing their agricultural skills," said Cavender.

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