The University of Tennessee is working with some local elementary schools to expand what they offer students. These community schools now have foreign language clubs, art enrichment opportunities, and even a lego league.
The kids are also digging in the dirt to learn life lessons through gardening in an innovative outdoor classroom.
Students like Denisha McGuire are discovering nature next to an interstate in the Pond Gap Elementary School garden.
She eagerly gave visitors a tour.
"Over here we have a big bin of worms and we compost from the cafeteria," the nine year old said. "I just now learned from Mr. Daniel over here how to open a honeysuckle and get the honey out of it."
Mr. Daniel is Daniel Stephenson and Mr. Andrew is garden manager Andrew Linville.
"Yesterday we did a lesson on fertilization with fish emulsion and there are five year olds now who can fertilize with fish emulsion and learned what diluting something was," Andrew Linville said.
The kids learn practical skills in the outdoor classroom.
"Being able to grow your own food and identify pests and identify beneficial insects and identify watering needs, when things need water and when things don't," he said.
Denisha said, "Mr Andrew and Mr Daniel are so helpful to our school. Now we have some healthy food in our cafeteria."
The food they grow in the garden is actually used in student culinary classes.
"They watched it grow. Then take it inside to the cooking class and cook it that's the full cycle and all the sudden they get it. Being immersed in that from kindergarten to 5th grade normalizes something like that in a way that is kind of impossible to do in such an urban environment," Linville said.
They are building a food forest in the urban environment with trees and shrubs and vegetables.
The peach trees and the strawberries are planted together because the strawberries will spread out and cover the ground preventing weeds and that means the fruit trees will grow bigger fruit.
"What I hope the kids get the most out of it is the diversity that is necessary to make a healthy community. That is what we are trying to model in this garden," he said.
The University-Assisted Community Schools program at UT makes it possible; lessons that impact the lives of kids like Denisha and their families.
"We can go home and tell our parents how to grow stuff. And we can actually start growing our own garden at home," she said.
And they taste the fruits of their labor at Pond Gap Elementary School.
The garden at Pond Gap Elementary was the first one. U-A-C-S started another one at Inskip Elementary last spring. They are hoping for more to come.