SUMMERVILLE -- The seed of an idea harvested by special education teacher Irene Mazell has grown into a first-of-its-kind program in the state.

Ashley Ridge High School is the only school in South Carolina that's permitted to grow its own produce and sell it to students in the cafeteria. And what makes that even more special is Mazell's special needs students -- disabled teenagers who can't earn a diploma and are in school to learn how to live more independently -- are responsible for tending the garden that's generated more than 400 pounds of produce.

"We are learning," Mazell said. "But the main thing is the students are learning life lessons. It's a great experience with a great yield."

This Dorchester 2 school garden is one of the more than 20 in the Lowcountry that are tended by students and grow fruits and vegetables. Some do it as part of a formal state program, while others have forged community partnerships to make it happen.

Few of the gardens are big enough to supply school cafeterias with the produce they serve, but many educators see the gardens as a teaching tool. They say it's a way of introducing students to new kinds of healthier foods, and of incorporating math, science and English lessons into hands-on projects.

Read more in tomorrow's editions of The Post and Courier, and get the latest education news by following @Diette on Twitter or go to www.facebook.com/diettecourrege.