Deinhammer featured by Apple for CMS East gardening class

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Blanche Harris

Coppell East science teacher Jodie Deinhammer works in the Coppell Middle School East garden on Friday. Deinhammer created this garden to help foster students’ learning.

By Anjali Vishwanath, Coppell High School

The Coppell Middle School East course guide has expanded to include one new elective course: seventh grade science teacher Jodie Deinhammer’s gardening class. Deinhammer also leads the CMS East Sustainability Club, which provides students with the opportunity to participate in fundraising activities and events to benefit the environment.

The inspiration for the club was a rubric that scored schools based on their sustainability. When Deinhammer came across this rubric, she noticed that CMSE fell short of many of its standards. This led her to consult with former CMSE Principal and current Coppell High School Principal Laura Springer to form the Sustainability Club in 2018.

“We had like 150 signups,” Deinhammer said. “It was amazing. We still have close to that many enrolled in the club, and we probably have about 60 or 70 that are very active.”

The students in the club pushed to open the school garden. When the garden was built two years later, the idea of a gardening class came with it.

“The district wanted to use the produce from the garden to give to other organizations and serve in our cafeteria,” CMSE Principal Steve Glover said. “We also have had several students that really enjoy gardening, and this would give them a creative outlet to learn and help others.”

Due to the pandemic and the split between virtual and face-to-face instruction, Deinhammer created a new class format. In-person students take care of physical work in the garden, while virtual students work on ideas for the growth and expansion of the garden.

Deinhammer implemented the district-issued iPads and Apple apps, such as Keynote for presentations and Numbers for spreadsheets, to further the experience of virtual students. She has tasked her classes with creating several educational iBooks over the years and now has her gardening students using Keynote to track the growth of the garden. This use of Apple technology brought her recognition in an Apple Newsroom feature story.

Deinhammer’s engaging and technologically connected teaching style is well-known among her colleagues as well as the Apple team, such as former CMSE science teacher and current Coppell ISD digital learning coach DianaLyn Perkins.

“She makes the content exciting so that the kids want to be there,” Perkins said. “Then, [it’s] the fact kids know, ‘Wait, what I’m doing is not just going to be seen by Mrs. Deinhammer, it’s going to be seen by other people.’ They have a stronger desire to create really good work.”

True to this sentiment, her students, such as CMSE eighth grade student Christian Reyes have been engaging in the gardening class enthusiastically.

“I joined this class to learn more about a hobby I’m passionate about, but instead it’s changing the way I think about what we’re doing to this Earth,” Reyes said. “I knew I wanted to do something with [plants] as a job, and hearing I could learn more about them in school was like a dream come true.”

Students, such as Reyes, are learning about the impact humans have on Earth while contributing to efforts to reverse those damages. The food grown in the garden is partially used in the school kitchen to make healthy school lunches, but is also donated to Metrocrest, a local charity.

“Over time, I hope to grow [the garden] quite a bit.” Deinhammer said. “I would love to have like a little native Texas plant garden with cacti and things like that out there.”

This story was originally published on Coppell Student Media on October 21, 2020.