How do you start a garden? That’s a lesson students at the West Sedona Elementary School have recently learned. And they learned it so well that they received a 2011 Youth Garden Award from the National Gardening Association.
The school’s previous garden had been torn up during renovation; the new garden space was merely a bit of land that had been cleared of everything, including topsoil. With the help of the activist group Gardens for Humanity, school principal Lisa Hirsch and teacher Linda Crawford coordinated the purchase of soil, tools, seeds, and a composter.
Now Crawford and other teachers reap the reward by integrating the resulting garden into their school lessons. The circular and rectangular garden beds provide shapes for calculating circumference and area. Trees provide shade while students write poetry about the garden and its plants and insects.
Studying growing plants helps fulfill curriculum requirements for science. Planting squash, corn and beans together in a Native American Three Sisters garden shows students the gardening wisdom of local cultures.
The students love to dig in the soil, work their muscles turning the composter, and get wet watering the plants. Crawford explains that they also love to eat the vegetables fresh out of the garden: broccoli, radishes and peas are shared with anyone who walks by as produce is being harvested.
They are also creating a seed bank. Seeds from plants grown this year will be saved for next year’s garden, so they can grow into both ripe vegetables and new learning moments.