CNN PRODUCER NOTE mjnowlin, a teacher at John Barry Elementary in Meriden, Connecticut, cultivated a school garden for her students to learn about gardening and the benefits of urban agriculture. "The first benefit to me is that the kids are outside and not sitting in front of the television," she says. "They notice things like how quickly the plants are growing, bees pollinating the flowers, insects, how the vines grab onto other plants or the fence and then of course they want to know 'Why, why ,why?' about everything that's happening in the garden. And I say, 'Let's go research that!'"
- stein0726, CNN iReport producer
In May of 2011, we planted our first school garden. We planted tomatoes, eggplant, greenbeans, cucumbers and some marigolds. Students came during the summer months to help take care of the garden. We weeded and watered the garden. We picked fresh tomatoes and made pizza dough from scratch to make a pizza. We had cucumbers with oil and vinegar and homemade eggplant parmesan. The students just loved it! Our garden was so successful that this past spring we more than doubled the size of our garden. We planted more tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant plus....get ready for this: blueberry bushes, peppers, lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, squash, pumpkins, strawberries, two varieties of sunfloweres, marigolds and a few other flowers for color and keep the pests away. We all go to school during the summer three times a week to take care of the garden. The children are absolutely in awe of what happens in the garden! They find insects, watch bees pollinate the plants, wonder why cucumbers and pumpkins have those tendrils that wrap around whatever they touch and keep a journal about their experiences. They bring in seeds from home to plant from things they've eaten. They conduct research about questions they have. Although we don't grow the lemons, we've made fresh squeezed lemonade and plan to make some ice cream, too. I can't think of anything better I could be doing with a group of children. They learn so much having this experience.
We are an urban school district and our first garden cost us $12.00 and we had one trowel. I posted our garden project on DonorsChoose.org and it was funded twice, once as "Summer in the Garden" and the second time as "From Garden to Table~Sharing the Bounty". The intent of increasing the size of the garden was to be able to share with more of our families, hopefully run a small "farmer's market" to earn a little money for next year's garden and donate some fresh produce to our local homeless shelter and soup kitchen.
I presently have a third project posted on the Donors
Choose website titled "Artists in the Garden". My hope is that the artistic learners in our group will have the opportunity to interpret their learning through drawing and painting the garden.
Due to the generous donations from Donors Choose donors, we were able to obtain a small green house, gardening books, gardening tools and some organic plants. I am also so grateful to my former principal Miss Karen Dahn for having the faith in me to let me pursue the project and my new principal, Ms. Elsie Torres-Brown for her support of continuing the project.
Our school district grounds keepers have tilled our garden for us the past two springs and we are so grateful for all of their hard work also.
We talk about First Lady Michelle Obama's garden often and hope to visit it some day. Now that would would really be the icing on the cake (Except we won't talk about that. We're eating fresh fruits and vegetables!)
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