Niskayunaâ€™s Birchwood Elementary School students are putting their green thumbs to work. Under the leadership of parents and garden enthusiasts, Katie and Mike Cowley-Cooper, 20 students planted 50 seedlings of lettuce, 25 strawberry plants, and five rows of snap peas.
"We recently got to reap some of our rewards by using our "school-grownâ€� lettuce in the taco lunch entrÃ©e served in the cafeteria,â€� expressed Katie Cowley-Cooper.
This did not happen without care and hard work. The hot and dry spring weather called for some out of the box thinking. Students installed cheesecloth sunshades to shield the lettuce and peas from the hot sun, and placed straw mulch to keep the soil cool and moist. Students also help with weekly upkeep of the garden â€“ watering, weeding, and harvesting.
Principal Debra Berndt notes the clear connections to character value lessons as well. "The teachings here are lasting â€“ preparation, planning and perseverance. These are life skills we talk about in school all the time,â€� shared Berndt. "The Garden Project has enabled the participants to apply these learnings to a group project and see results.â€� And results are growing.
"All the kids have worked so hard. The students have been very excited to share their crops with the entire school,â€� added Mike Cooper.
The Garden Project is a complement to the school's Nature Park, which includes a short trail, an outside "classroomâ€�, and seasonally-themed Story Walks.