TAMPA, Fla. — Seeds of friendship and learning are growing at Plant High School in Tampa.

Students with special needs are working on a unique garden with both ground and new hydroponic plant solar panels.

What You Need To Know

  • Special needs students working on a unique garden with ground and hydroponic plant solar panels

  • Students are learning skills like math and chemistry

  • Students also get hands-on training; leading to careers in gardening, farming, botany, technology, and community enrichment

  • Tampa Urban Benefit Farms is a local non-profit that helps support garden

Joseph Davis, a junior at the school, said it is a highlight of his day.

"We like pulling out weeds and watering plants," Davis said.

Teachers said students are learning many skills including things like math and chemistry.

"Urban farming is becoming more prominent in our culture so it's the wave of the future and it gets these kids ready for other opportunities and jobs that may be out there," said Jessica Strauss.

With students unable to get career based training off campus because of Covid-19, the garden has provided them with a way to get hands-on training that could lead to careers in gardening, farming, botany, technology, and community enrichment.

"It's really brought out a lot of social skills for a bunch of our students which is what we aim for," said Lana Giunta, a teacher at Plant High School.

"Also, there is a lot of technology in it now, a lot of innovation and we love that we can introduce that to the students," said Nava Kirk with Tampa Urban Benefit Farms, a local non-profit that helps support garden.

Students in the school's Unified Sports Club lend a hand. Organizers said it's a way to encourage inclusion on campus and friendships are blooming.

"Absolutely," said Cole Bonbrest, a senior at Plant High School. "Joseph, for example, the first time we came out here, he was nervous, he didn't really know what to do but today he was out here eating the plants that he helped grow and he was really excited about that. We've become good friends, he's a great person."

Davis said it has enriched his high school experience.

"Yes, it has made my experience better," he said.

Students hope to be able to sell what they've grown at a farmers market or donate it to a local food bank once the pandemic is over and that can be done safely.