2018-09-13 / Life in Leelanau

Students dig up dirt while learning science in gardens

By Jen Murphy of the Enterprise staff


LELAND SCHOOL sixth grade students show off the harvest from their garden club. Pictured, from left, are Annabelle MacDonald, Isabelle Plamondon, mentor Richard Allen, Eve Courturier, Landry Fouch and Vivian Serrano. LELAND SCHOOL sixth grade students show off the harvest from their garden club. Pictured, from left, are Annabelle MacDonald, Isabelle Plamondon, mentor Richard Allen, Eve Courturier, Landry Fouch and Vivian Serrano. Sometimes dirt can be a good teacher.

Just ask Leland School Garden Club mentor Richard Allen, who’s been involved with the club for the 10 years of its existence. He designed and built the raised garden beds on the Leland Public School campus, helps to maintain the garden, and mentors students who want to learn how to grow food for themselves.

So when a group of five students showed up Friday in work clothes, they were ready to help.

“Can I cut these beans?” one of the girls asked. Immediately, she and another student got to work trimming dried bean pods.

Perhaps that willingness to work is why their harvest was so bountiful when they returned to school just a week and a half ago. Their early harvest included beans for drying, potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes and carrots. And the garden is still producing. Corn stalks are still standing, chard is bursting, cabbage heads are looming large, and winter squash is creeping along.


EXPLAINING HOW the garden grows, TBAISD Snap-Ed nutrition educator and coordinator Terra Bogart works with Northport Public School students in the school greenhouse. EXPLAINING HOW the garden grows, TBAISD Snap-Ed nutrition educator and coordinator Terra Bogart works with Northport Public School students in the school greenhouse. “In the spring, only little tiny things are coming up,” Allen said. “This (season) is more rewarding because there’s all these veggies.”

Beyond the garden itself, Allen’s big reward is seeing students enjoy the fruits — or veggies — of their labor.

“For me, it’s about eating the food,” he said. “I want to teach them how to make some of the sta- ples. If I can give them one or two ‘goto’ things out of whole, unprocessed food, that is a huge benefit.”

He hopes to expand that part of the program to include more opportunities for students to learn to cook.

Younger students are involved as well. Bushels of beans are delivered to their classrooms where they shuck dried beans from pods.

Leland isn’t the only school on the Leelanau Peninsula offering students a chance to plant, weed and harvest. At Northport Public School, kindergarten through 5th grade students help with a similar program.

Terra Bogart, nutrition educator and coordinator for the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, helps to maintain a hoophouse at NPS that has been in use for three seasons.

“We provide garden-based nutrition education programming at the school both during the school year and throughout the summer,” she said. “Currently we have tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, beets and herbs… Students are very excited about working the garden. They love helping tend to the plants and harvesting vegetables to be tasted in the classroom.”

After each weekly harvest, Bogart explained, students make a delivery to the cafeteria so vegetables can be incorporated into school lunches.

All of the learning outside can be pulled inside the school walls as gardening is incorporated into class curriculum in a variety of ways.

“Students are learning about nutrition, life science, plant biology and environmental concepts. Students learn how to grow healthy food from seed to plate,” Bogart said. “Another goal we have this school year is to help incorporate the garden into the standard curriculum more formally.”

Bogart hopes to expand the school’s Farm to School program to engage a wider range of ages in the garden, as well as community members who are interested.

High school students at The Leelanau School are typically active in the school’s greenhouse and gardens. But production in the gardens and greenhouse has been dialed back this year.

“We always have students who are passionate about it,” said Julie Povolo, director of advancement. “They grow tomatoes, kale. We have gardens and a wonderful greenhouse. It’s beautiful.”

“But the greenhouse is not fully functional,” she said. “We do have several things growing, but we are not at full capacity.”

According to Povolo, the school is searching for a grant to grow the school’s garden project.

“There’s not a resource problem in terms of space or facility,” she said. “We need to put together a better plan to make the most of it.”

Povolo said the school is looking to partner with a non-profit that could benefit from the large summertime harvest as students do not arrive on campus until Labor Day weekend.

“It’s a big part of our belief system - we are all about sustainability,” she said.

Students in the Glen Lake school district are also seeing what they can sprout. Glen Lake has a greenhouse, which they use for “experiments” to see what affects seed germination. Karen Richard, a teacher at Glen Lake Schools, said an example of these student experiments may compare plants grown with compost material versus those without, or plants grown with GMO and non-GMO seeds.

“Students design their experiment, measure and collect data, graph results, and share conclusions with the class,” she said. “We also try to grow a few veggies for consumption by the class.”

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