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Kilough Elementary, FFA hoop house partnership continues
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Members of Dawson County High School Future Farmers of America and Kilough Elementary School first grade teachers and students gathered at the Dawson County Board of Education meeting to discuss their hoop house partnership Feb. 12. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Students from Dawson County High School’s Future Farmers of America program and Kilough Elementary School’s first grade teachers and students gathered at the Dawson County Board of Education meeting Feb. 12 to discuss their continuing partnership regarding the Cougar Hoop House, which was installed in September.

The hoop house was donated to the county by the Chestatee/Chattahoochee RC & D Council Inc. and Upper Chattahoochee Soil and Water Conservation District.

The hoop house works like a green house, utilizing geothermal and solar energies with ventilation regulated by rolling flaps on the sides and end of the house.

At first KES Principal Teresa Conowal was unsure what to do with the structure, but knew it could become invaluable for the students.

“I had a dream of it becoming something really phenomenal for our students and our first grade team stepped forward and they embraced this opportunity for our students,” Conowal said. “It has been amazing for our students, our parent partnership and our partnership with the FFA.”

The Cougar Hoop House became a reality with a ribbon cutting ceremony in September 2018 that solidified a partnership between KES and the FFA program at Dawson County High School.

Keith Pankey and his FFA students travel to KES once a month to help the first grade classes maintain the structure and teach them about growing different plants throughout the year.

“We reached out to Mr. Pankey and asked if we could have this partnership with them, you know, to see if we could work together because we see that our kids are his future kids,” said KES first grade teacher Carolyn Wright. “If we could start building the program as the younger generation coming up that that would be a good partnership.”

Carrying baskets filled with freshly grown cabbage, turnips, collard greens and broccoli, two KES first graders proudly told the board what they loved most about the hoop house.

“Well I like the food that we make and I love that we can go there and learn about plants,” Benjamin Riedinger said.

His friend Tessa Ingram took a moment to explain some of the things her class was able to do in the hoop house this fall.

“We cut some of our plants and we got to eat some of our collards and we got to see Ms. Tonya cook them for us and that we got to water some of the plants too,” she said.

The first graders are also excited to start utilizing the new potato barrels the FFA students dropped off for them. 

“We appreciate the partnership. It epitomizes what true partnership is in our school district. That working together is what it’s all about,” Superintendent Damon Gibbs said.