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School gardens in flux

Staff writer

Garden programs at Goessel and Centre schools lost a valuable resource during the winter, but the schools are doing their best to keep the programs going.

Whispering Cottonwood Farms and Educational Center President Kirk Cusick directed both schools’ gardening programs in 2010, but grants that funded his involvement ceased during the winter.

Centre High School biology teacher Cindy Riedel saw several benefits to her students’ involvement in the garden.

“I thought it really connected them to nature in a way they hadn’t been before,” she said.

The program also provided practical biology lessons. She said Cusick would ask students what they were studying and find a way to relate it to what they were doing in the garden.

The produce from the garden was another advantage, Riedel said. Students ate more fresh fruits and vegetables when they knew it was something from their garden.

“One thing students really enjoyed was seeing the produce come out of the garden, go in the kitchen, and come back out on cafeteria trays,” she said.

Goessel Elementary School Principal John Fast agreed having students involved in growing some of their own food was a good lesson.

“The students were really enthusiastic when they saw cantaloupe, cucumbers, and other things they grew on our salad bar,” Fast said.

GES fourth-graders Drew Lindeman and Stephany Meyer said they preferred the fresh vegetables from their school garden.

“I thought it tasted really good,” Meyer said.

“It was better than most store-bought food, Lindeman added.

In the fall, some CHS students took pumpkins from the garden and decorated them with help from kindergartners.

“For me, that was wonderful seeing the interaction between the kids,” Riedel said.

Junior Michael Beeler volunteered in the garden during the summer, spending about two hours each Tuesday and Thursday.

“I thought it gave a lot of people a different perspective on what work outside is,” Beeler said.

Goessel Elementary School has found a volunteer to direct the school’s program. Warren Yoder recently moved to Goessel from Indiana. He is an avid gardener and was put in touch with the school by a friend.

Yoder is a pediatric nurse, so he is used to working with children. However, working with groups of children will be a learning experience, he said.

He had his first day working with GES students Friday, planting peas, lettuce, beets, and spinach. Yoder will garden with students one day each week.

“Hopefully some cool-weather produce will be ready before school is out for summer,” Yoder said.

He plans to incorporate lessons about weather, insects, and soil into his time gardening with students.

The future of Centre’s garden is less certain, Riedel said. The school has someone interested in directing the program, but it isn’t clear whether they will be available.

Beeler is optimistic the school will find a good match.

“I hope a plan can get pulled through,” he said. “I think the kids will find some way to get out there and do it.”

Last modified March 16, 2011

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