It may seem daunting to start a garden at your school or to pick up where another class has left off, but Stephens Elementary has well documented their successful process to share with others:
Stephens Elementary Garden Club started with 20 students in the spring of 2017. Students were then split into 4 groups with 1 student named as the group leader. Group names were developed and journals were created for recording important dates, ideas, and reflection.
Students began with an assessment of the grounds. Two groups created a list of priority jobs needing to be done in the garden. Two other groups researched planting indoor seedlings.
In the spring, the club focused on cleaning up 9 over grown raised beds, dismantling 2 rotted beds, and weeding the grounds surrounding the beds. The students planted tomato, pepper and lettuce and various herbs by seed. Seed markers were created, and materials for recycling to create art for the garden were investigated.
In late spring, students created 2 herb beds out of recycled wood pallets. Students painted patterns in collaboration with the art teacher and their garden group. Designs were recorded in journals and agreed upon prior to the project. Students researched garden designs on IPads and created designs in their journals.
The students’ last days before summer break was spent weeding, reflecting about their garden needs and journaling thoughts for the fall. The groups determined that they would investigate cold frame gardening in the fall.
Upon returning to school in the fall of 2017, the gardening club continues with 14 returning members and one new member with continued interest.
Students started the year weeding and cleaning up their raised beds and researching cold weather plants for fall. They documented plants they were interested in planting and after further research found that planting by seed was not always an option. Students made a list of plants and flowers that we could grow during the cold season: garlic, spinach, kale, mustard greens and lettuce. Students also decided to plant chrysanthemums to add color and interest.
One teacher commented on the work of the students, “The students’ hard work is starting to have an effect on our school! Many teachers have commented on how happy they are to see all the weeds gone outside their classrooms.”
The garden club also partnered with a local Eagle Scout to build a little library for the garden. The school’s custodian volunteered to work with the Garden Club to build a cold frame.
The garden club received a donation from Kinman Farm for a fall display of pumpkins for decorating the garden area, and later dried seeds for pumpkin planting in the spring.
In October, the Garden Club worked outside weeding beds, watering and harvesting spinach and kale. The students were excited to see how their seeds had developed into plants. Tasting and picking fresh greens from our garden was a highlight for many students that have never had those experiences.
Near the end of October, the cold frame and little library were completed and installed. The Garden Club will not officially meet again until spring, however, students created a schedule to determine who will be responsible for checking on the garden’s needs during school hours– watering, picking, and weeding until spring.
We can’t wait to hear what spring of 2018 has in store for the Stephens Elementary Garden Club!
If you’d like to start a garden at your school, consider checking out the Civic Garden Center’s 52 Weeks in the School Garden.