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"The whole event has brought the community together. A retired custodian and his wife have spent a whole day cutting fruit and vegetables...."

Third and Eighth Graders Spearhead “Community Garden Day” Project with the Help of their Teachers

Family and community engagement are important components of Farm to School activities at Propel East Charter School, and each of the 400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade is involved in some way. Kristen Golomb, a science coach at the school, and Jessie Roosevelt, an Earth Force teacher, explain how the Farm to School Project has given the children the opportunity to go into the greenhouse, see real life examples, and then teach their family and community members.

A day in May is dedicated to family and community learning about the school’s garden. Third and eighth graders spearhead this “Community Garden Day” project with the help of their teachers. These students are in charge of planning and conducting the day’s activities, but all students prepare for it by learning about and working in the garden itself. Starting in the classroom, students use the STC Science Kit to learn about seeds and how plants grow. Then they plant, weed, and maintain the garden throughout the school year, which makes the garden an educational tool that teachers use to illustrate the classroom lessons.

Members of the PA Resources Council have visited the school to help the third graders add composting to the gardening system in an effort to recycle the daily fruit and vegetable snack waste. Council members also taught eighth graders how to properly construct and use water-collecting barrels. Both the composting and water collection systems have been showcased during Community Garden Day.

In further preparations for Community Garden Day, students divide into groups that focus on learning details about gardening, such as car of seedlings, unconventional garden beds, and even hummingbirds. Golomb and Roosevelt explain that each group is assigned a Community Garden Day “center” where they share and demonstrate their newfound knowledge. Groups make pamphlets, drawings, pictures, and graphs to explain their topics, and people walk among the centers during the day, taking new information away with them.

The seventh and eighth graders are big helpers when it comes to organizing and decorating for the actual day. They decorate rocks in the garden and create reusable t-shirt bags which participants use for carrying pamphlets and flyers.

The whole event has brought the community together. A retired custodian and his wife have spent a whole day cutting fruit and vegetables, staff have helped set up, and as Golomb points out, “Having the principal stop by…to give us the freedom of letting us go and be able to construct this, having the parents ask us if we need anything; it was just a huge community event.” When the day finally arrives, the whole neighborhood comes to see what the students have prepared. As they explain their centers, one can see that the students really understand.

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