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Growing vegetables — and young learners

Sunset Primary School garden is both a classroom and a teaching tool


Plants aren’t the only thing growing in the garden at Sunset Primary School. The garden is a teaching tool and a classroom, where students’ ideas and interests have the opportunity to flourish. by: TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Claire Allen, center, her sister, Madeline, 4, and neighbor Kelan Goodrich, 5, help out at a volunteer workday  Aug. 3.

Sunset’s garden committee coordinator, Kristen Waits, explained how students used the garden during the past school year not only to enhance their learning experience but also to create links from one school year to the next.

“The fourth-graders, now fifth-graders, planted a salsa garden with tomatoes and onions,” Waits said. “The third-going-into-fourth-graders planted a ‘three sisters’ garden of corn, beans and pumpkins to demonstrate how the American Indians planted crops to mutually benefit each other. The second-graders planted some peas which came up quite sparse, a lesson in what plants need to grow and thrive. ... The new and incoming kindergartners planted some sunflowers at the kindergarten roundup that they will come back and check on when school starts this fall.”by: TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Kelan Goodrich, 5, harvests a handful of tomatoes. He will be a kindergartner at Sunset Primary School this fall.

Two of those new students, Kelan Goodrich and Claire Allen, both 5 and incoming kindergartners, didn’t wait until fall to check on their sunflower patch. They came with their parents to a garden cleanup on Aug. 3. They harvested some vegetables, including potatoes and tomatoes, while Claire’s younger sister, Madeline, 4, stayed busy digging — and replanting — potatoes. Their parents, meanwhile, pulled weeds and performed other chores to spruce up the garden before the start of the new school year.

Claire and Madeline’s mother, Tonya Allen, recalled Waits telling new families about the garden during the kindergarten roundup and inviting them to get involved.by: TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Parents, including Will Waits, and students work together Aug. 3 in the Sunset Primary School garden.

“She said she could use all the help she could get,” Allen said. Spending time in the garden had helped Claire, too, Allen said. “It’s made her less scared to go to school.”

“We do plan to have another cleanup session prior to school starting and will likely continue to have them throughout the year,” Waits said. “I would like to get the entire school involved in planting, growing and harvesting the garden year-round with help from the community.”

For more information or to get involved, contact Sunset Primary by phone at 503-673-7200.