About 20 second-graders in Kristine Baglini's class sit on hay bales outside the library. They kick their feet against the bales, talking excitedly to each other with eyes wandering over the raised planting beds in front of them.
These children are in one of three classes that are piloting a program at Broadmor Elementary School in the Tempe Elementary School District. The program looks to integrate the school's garden into the classroom curriculum, engaging the students and creating a valuable resource for the school. Students visit the garden once every two weeks for about 45 minutes to an hour.
The garden has three sections to it - the flowering plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds, desert plants and the largest section of vegetable plants. The program is only for one kindergarten and first grade class in addition to Baglini's class.
"It's very practical and hands-on," Baglini said. "Part of second-grade curriculum is plant and insect life cycle. They get to come out here and apply it."
That practical application is tangible as students race from bed to bed noting in their journals, in complete sentences of course, the changes in the garden from the last time they visited.
"There's always something new when we come," said Tyler Levario, a second-grader in Baglini's class.
Sometimes new plants have popped up or been transplanted. Other times it's when bugs move on to decaying plants, completing the life cycle.
"We learned that plants need certain things to live - water, sun and soil," second-grader Katelyn Boblet said.
Among the other things that students have learned in the garden: types of bees, how pollination works, and all about interesting bugs.
But the garden is more than just a place for classroom instruction. The mission statement also emphasizes that it's a place that can bring the community together and teach students, their families and the community about natural food systems, healthy food choices and environmental stewardship.
It is here that many students become vested in plants and become more willing to try different types of vegetables, said Kelly Hedberg, the parent volunteer who acts as garden coordinator.
"They dare each other to try the mustard leaf," Hedberg said as she pinched a little off the plant. "After about five or six chews, it starts to taste like spicy mustard."
And as one of the kids said, it also turns your tongue yellow, too.
While having class time in the garden is limited to a few, there are other ways Broadmor students can connect to it.
Harvest Tuesdays invites students and their families to the garden to take some of the freshly picked produce home free of cost, Hedberg said.
Some of the fourth- and fifth-graders have taken on the responsibility to collect and carry uneaten fruit and vegetables to be used to make compost in the garden, Hedberg said. The compost is the only fertilizer that is used.
The school originally received a grant from Tempe to start the garden, but it had to be pushed back until renovations almost entirely rebuilt the school a few years ago, Hedberg said. While the grant paid for the initial start-up costs, the garden operates on a $300 budget, but mostly through donations.
Now, they're hoping to receive another grant from Whole Foods, which promises $2,000 to 1,000 schools for school gardens, Hedberg said. The winners of the grant should start being announced by the end of February.
Eventually, Hedberg hopes that they can buy a locking shed and create ready-made educational packets for all the Broadmor teachers to use in the garden.
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