It may be summer, but Baldwin elementary school students are eager to exercise their green thumbs.
Throughout the season, students volunteer to maintain the gardens they created during the school year at five Baldwin elementary schools (Meadow, Brookside, Lenox, Steele and Plaza).
The gardens include tomatoes, lettuce, beans, kale, garlic and other spices. The garden at Meadow School was designed by seventh graders from the Baldwin Middle School, who drew up a blueprint and created the garden layout as a part of science class. The students worked with third- through fifth-graders to plant the garden, which was a “collaborative effort because the schools are close by,” said Nomi Rosen, administrator for professional development for Baldwin schools.
Families in the community are also involved in the garden upkeep. Each week, a different family volunteers on a first-come, first-served basis. Each family commits to care for the garden every other day or up to five days a week. Custodians help volunteers access the garden on weekdays.
During the school year, each grade plays a different role in the gardening process. First-graders learn about water while second graders study soil. The vegetable garden is devoted to kindergarteners through second grade. Third- through fifth-grade students create a native garden, which is connected to what they’re learning about in class. The curriculum also includes reading and researching on soil, gardens, critters, ants, worms and more. The gardens at both Meadow and Lenox schools were built in collaboration with Seatuck Environmental Association Schoolyard Gardens Program.
“By helping in the gardens, kids aren’t detached from the school during the summer months,” said Anthony Mignella, assistant superintendent of instruction in the Baldwin School District. “They take great pride in it. They’re continuing to learn when they see what happens when they don’t take care of their garden. They’re really doing academic work without realizing they’re doing academic work -- this is just another learning activity.”
The community also benefits from the garden. The school typically donates the produce to a local food pantry. Parents often post on Facebook about having “tons of lettuce” and other vegetables when available.
“Learning about where you live and getting your hands dirty makes learning come alive for kids,” said Rosen.