Grand Ridge growing green thumbs with new garden
May 11, 2010
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Teachers at Grand Ridge Elementary School are finding students are coming in from recess dirtier and dirtier.
The school’s new garden has seemed to spring up an epidemic of green thumbs among the student body this year, third-grade teacher Renee DeTolla said.
“We have so many kids rushing out from lunch to help in the garden,” she said.
Instead of hitting the monkey bars or the basketball court, students are rushing to get their hands on some seeds and into some dirt during the open gardening times at recesses.
“I like being able to dig holes and I like being able to play with dirt,” said third-grader Hal Mady, who helped plant cabbages April 20. “I also like being able to eat the food I grow.”
“I like working with plants, because ever since I was a baby, my grandma raised me as a gardener,” third-grader Kaitlyn Ray said. “I like that everyone in my class can get together, like my grandma and I do, and help make our garden healthy.”
The garden project started last school year with grant funding from the Issaquah Schools Foundation and the Parents, Teachers and Students Association, DeTolla said. In total, they received about $7,000 from the organizations.
With those grants, they purchased the materials to build garden boxes and fill them with soil, and experiment with a few seeds and native plants here and there, in what they have named the Grizzly Patch, after the school’s mascot.
“I think anything we do to encourage children to be enthusiastic about being out in nature and learning about where the food supply comes from is beneficial,” said Kristin Wisdom, a parent volunteer. “We’re raising a generation that is steeped in technology, but many children don’t know where the broccoli on their dinner plate comes from.
“To help them, we’re having them keep the beds, do the weeding and plan what they want to plant, so they can watch it grow and see where it comes from.”
This year, the school’s garden has taken on a much larger part of the students’ education.
“We really wanted to kick off this year with Earth Week,” DeTolla said. “During the week, students have participated in a variety of activities, including actually working in the community garden with the docents, where they are painting the bins with stencils, planting and weeding.
“It’s amazing how many hands can make a difference and the kids have been so excited.”
This year, each grade is planting something specific in the garden.
Kindergarteners are planting peas; first-graders — broccoli; third-graders — cabbages; fourth-graders — lettuce; and fifth-graders — corn, squash and beans. The second-graders haven’t decided what their choice will be, but DeTolla said there are already strawberries and pumpkins that everyone is helping with.
“Cabbage is good for you,” third-grader Ava Bishop said. “My mom cuts it up and we eat it in salad.”
But they’re not just planting seeds to watch them grow; they’re learning about mathematics, scientific hypothesis, history and English.
“Teachers are using the garden to help with all types of lessons and to help enrich what students are learning,” DeTolla said.
For instance, the reason fifth-graders are planting beans, corn and squash is because they were some of the first crops grown in the U.S. by the Pilgrims, she said. They found the three plants, or what they called the three sisters, worked better when planted together than they did apart or not at all.
Other teachers are using the garden to test hypotheses and others are incorporating math skills.
During Earth Week, students used their art skills to create environmental marketing posters, learned about endangered species and important resources, like water and oxygen, in our environment.
“We learned how important it is to take care of the earth,” Ava said. “How we need to try not to kill animals that are protected like the ones we read about in the magazines.”
This year, the students also decided to take some of their PTSA funding and plant a tree in honor of retiring Principal Barb Walton. The tree was planted April 22.
The garden “is really designed to bring awareness to our students,” DeTolla said, “to have our children understand the world around them and give them the opportunity to explore things they might not be able to at home.”