The eighth graders had trowels; the seventh graders were armed with clipboards. It was early on a Friday morning and the middle schoolers were on a mission to harvest the garden.
Last spring, the now-eighth grade had chosen seeds and starter plants—squash, watermelon, onions, potatoes, sunflowers, and Brussels sprouts—and then mapped out their plantings.
They decided questions such as: What needed sunlight? What needed shade? How big would the plants be as they grew? How did the plant beds needed to be spaced and oriented?
The section, called “For a Healthy Harvest,” was designed to get students thinking both about the nutrition that food provides and the nutrients plants need to grow into edibles.
As well as designing the space and studying the growing cycle, students learned about hunger and particularly how it affected modern Americans. Whatever they could produce out of the garden would be donated to the local Food Bank.
“Today was an assessment from last May,” said Middle School science teacher Jane Lucia. “Food takes a long time to grow, so without the harvest, they’d only see the initial part.”
Tyler Senecal and Robby Hill were among the eighth graders who helped bring in 32 pounds of squash, 19 pounds of potatoes, 17 onions, and 12 stalks of Brussels sprouts for the Food Bank, as well as eight small watermelons, several large sunflowers, and a handful of carrots which the students will eat.
“When we left, it was pretty barren,” Mr. Hill said. ”It was nice to see what we planted at the end of the year grow on its own.”
“It was interesting to see what you’re use to seeing in the store—huge apple-sized onions—aren’t the easiest to grow,” added Mr. Senecal.32
Seventh graders Lila Schaefer and Isabelle Cheney spent the morning tending the compost and measuring the harvest. Both girls were also surprised by the plants: the sprouts unexpectedly grew on stems, and the sunflowers were as large as wheels.
“I think of a flower as delicate,” said Ms. Cheney, making a huge circle with her arms, “But those were huge.”