The Garden Club at Blue Ridge Elementary

“If you build it they will come” may be from the movie A Field of Dreams, but is has also proven true for the Cool Kids Grow Garden Club and other STEM-based programs at Blue Ridge Elementary School. Generous donations from Feed Fannin have helped to build 21 raised beds at the school. Seventeen of them have been planted with cool weather vegetables or are teeming with berries, annuals and perennials from the spring season before.

Applications for the club were taken in mid-August. Forty-six students vied for 15 spots in the garden club. A random lottery was held to pick the club members.

Nutrition themes are woven into our program whether we are studying science, language or math in the garden. When students grow fruits and vegetables for themselves, they are much more likely to enjoy eating them. They are exposed to healthy snacks prepared by our volunteers.

Students begin the school year by planting the autumn crop and using the crops in lessons. They learn about pollinators from experts in butterflies and bees.

They visit Merciers’ Orchard and are taught about growing new plants from seed, grafting or budding.

They nurture their gardens throughout the fall and winter until it’s time to harvest. Students gain a keen appreciation for where their food comes from, and the children come to understand that they need proper nutrition and care themselves, just as their plants do. They learn how humans are dependent on plants and plants in turn are very dependent on pollinators and other beneficial insects. When they feast upon the food they grew, they also learn that they actually do like fruits and vegetables.

Whatever the subject, it comes to life in the hands-on environment of a school garden. Students come to see the relationship between effort and reward. They get to see that problems can be solved with perseverance. If a heat wave comes and causes your lettuce to bolt, that’s not a permanent failure; you rip it out, put it in the compost bin and plant again.

In this age of fast-moving technology and virtual knowledge, kids need to get their hands in the dirt. They need to be grounded, you might say, and taught the ways of nature. The garden club gives a lifelong skill or hobby. It provides them with a profound and lasting sense of the majesty of nature and a reverence for the sanctity of life.

Submitted by Kate George