For some green-thumbed fifth graders, education is taking place not only in the classroom, but also across the street from their school in a once-vacant lot. But coming from a school named Park, it’s not much of a stretch to think that students there would be interested in gardening.
With help from their teachers – spearheaded by Toni Rice – and some neighborhood volunteers, a community garden was planted last year.
“Last year, we started many plants in the classroom such as tomato, eggplant, pepper and cucumber and then transplanted them into the garden when the weather was right,” said Rice, a fifth-grade teacher. “We are doing that again this season, experimenting with different varieties such as purple peppers and carefully watering and tending the baby seedlings until it is transplanting time.
“We have already planted 600 onion bulbs, some cabbage, broccoli and everybody’s favorite, Brussels sprouts,” she said, laughing. “The daffodils we planted last fall show their cheery faces as we work.”
During the long, cold winter months, students were anticipating another growing season by making many seed tapes with very small seeds, Rice said, noting that those seeds have now been rolled out and planted.
Great Bend High School agriculture students of Robert Johnson sometimes lend a helping hand at times and Park teachers Terry Schneider, Lacey Hofflinger, and Peggy Haag also are rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty with the project. Gina Munz is another much-appreciated volunteer.
“We will be putting in a lot of corn and green beans as soon as it is warm enough,” Rice said. “Last year, we had a salad-in-the-garden party when we picked fresh salad fixings, washed them and ate the salad right there in the garden. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!
“We also dug our sweet potatoes, cured them and sent them home to be baked,” she said.
“We have had so much fun in our outdoor classroom and have learned a lot,” Rice continued. “We have had a squash bug squish, bind weed wars, put up toad abodes, centrally located bird watering stations and we recently did a rain dance to bring us some much needed moisture, but so far it hasn’t helped. Our most recent work-in-progress is the making of a P-E-A fence with the help of the high school boys.”
Rice noted that many people in the community have reaped the benefits of the garden during the summer months and anyone who helps with the gardening is welcome to the produce.
She also said that they are thinking about making seed tapes and selling them as a money-making venture.
For more information or to check the progress of the garden, a website has been set up at parkgarden.wordpress.com.