Last year, we expanded our garden at the Peirce elementary school from one to three raised beds, allowing each fifth-grade class to plant, tend, and harvest their own salad garden. In mid-June, we celebrated our success with a salad lunch of lettuce, mesclun greens, arugula, and spinach. One of the goals was to inspire healthy food choices by giving kids the experience of growing their own food. And, not surprisingly, the salad was a big hit, especially with the students who thought they wouldn’t like it.
Fifth-graders used the garden to support science learning by reviewing plant life cycles, investigating soil composition, and starting a compost pile. It also served as inspiration for nature haikus and in discussions of survival and resilience. Connections were made to farming in Newton during the colonial period based on their newly acquired appreciation of the importance of climate, weather, and soil to gardening.
Another goal was to build community by involving other classes, so first-graders were invited to prepare the beds by taking out clumps. Second-graders helped their fifth-grade buddies plant the seeds, and observed the plant growth from the appearance of the cotyledon to the true leaves. And third-graders made our garden signs out of pottery during art class. We are looking forward to our new project of sowing, harvesting, and saving seeds for next spring, as well as bringing more kids out to be part of our growing classroom.
By Rebekah Smillie