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Knox school students grow with their garden
Gary A. Knox Elementary School has a new 63-bed garden thanks to more than $55,000 in donations from businesses that helped make it all possible.
The Garden of Learning, which has 11 different kinds of leafy vegetables, was unveiled at a Crane Elementary School District board meeting Tuesday.
Gary A. Knox Principal Laura Hurt explained that although they just began planting vegetables in October, students are already beginning to apply concepts that they are learning in the classroom while working in the garden.
“With science and math standards, you're always looking for ways to apply and adapt them to real-life experiences — it's kind of always a challenge for us — so we thought this would be a perfect way to incorporate those standards by teaching them real life in the garden and they have their own laboratory, too,” said Hurt.
She explained that they initially came up with the idea during an interview with first-year teacher Elizabeth McShane, who was hired earlier this year. McShane had shared with them her great experiences while student teaching at a school in Tucson that had a garden where students had everything from math and science lessons to reading lessons.
“It was an outdoor classroom, it brought learning to life and they got to see their own produce being grown and they were doing all the weeding so it was teaching them responsibility,” said McShane. “The students I worked with were excited to learn. At that time, I didn't know if I would ever work at a school with a garden again. It's so wonderful that as a first-year teacher, this dream became a reality.”
Fellow second-grade teacher Delanie Rouff explained that she shared their idea of having a school garden with Vic Smith from JV Farms, along with his wife, Karen, earlier this year. Rouff said Vic was immediately on board and soon after began taking steps to figure out how he could make a garden possible, complete with a drip system and timers.
“We planned for this little garden and he went above and beyond anything we could have imagined. If it wasn't for his help and support and enthusiasm, we definitely wouldn't have that,” she said.
“In Yuma there's agriculture all around us but a lot of the kids don't even realize how their food gets to the grocery store, and so we also wanted to teach them from the ground up where it comes from.”
In addition to JV Farms, the school received donations and services from Gowan Seed; Rain for Rent; Dahl, Robins and Associates; Western Growers Foundation; West Coast Soil Amendments; JSA Landscape; and Zellers Excavating and Paving.
While learning about planting and growing the produce, students also learned about food safety practices to keep the vegetables from being contaminated.
Rouff said they are planning to plant new crops about every 70 days, with JV Farms conducting the first harvest in December. Current crops include cilantro, spinach, bunched spinach, red leaf spinach, Swiss chard, romaine, red romaine, butter lettuce, radish, spring mix and green leaf lettuce.
Students will also be tasked with maintaining the garden by watering, weeding and cleaning the beds if needed. JV Farms will take soil and water samples to test for bacteria to make sure the vegetables aren't contaminated.
Fifth-grade student Jacqi Orozco said she has enjoyed being a part of the process by planting and helping the seeds grow.
“It was a really good experience for me. This is the first time I've planted anything.”
Sixth-grade student Divine Garcia commented that she was grateful for the opportunity that her school has been given to have a garden and said it will ultimately help her and her fellow classmates to eat healthier. She added that students will eventually be able to eat what they have grown in the cafeteria.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.