Students get their hands dirty

MARIETTA – Just a week ago, third-graders at Harmar Elementary School planted vegetables in a few plots in the Harmar Community Garden and are now looking forward to taking what they learned further than the classroom.

Abby Miller, 8, said she has enjoyed watching the garden grow.

“I actually planted parsley and I like to see it grow healthy,” she said.

Miller said planting in the Harmar garden was fun, but she wants to go a step further.

“At my house we have a little patch of dirt and I really want to start planting vegetables there,” she said.

Hattie Clarke, third grade teacher at Harmar, led the children in their venture to plant the garden, which includes parsley, cilantro, radishes and lettuce, to name a few.

“We have 43 third-graders,” she said. “They came in a day before spring break and we planted a bunch of little seeds.”

Once they sprouted, the plants were transplanted to the garden on May 9.

For Sophia Coughenour, 9, that was a highlight.

“My favorite part was when we got to dig up soil and put the plant in,” she said. “I’ve seen that they are sprouting and they’re growing.”

She’s quickly picked up the proper way to initially water the seeds.

“I learned that you’re supposed to put the water in first,” she said.

Clarke said the experience coincided with classwork.

“The kids loved it and it’s tied in – we studied plants,” she said, adding that students learned about root systems by growing beans with a cotton ball in the classroom and through lectures before moving out to the garden.

“This way they can see the little, tiny plants growing into bigger plants,” she said. “This just expanded their understanding of how plants grow and how they work… And it’s a perfect location, right across from the school.”

In fact, Madison Ritchie, 8, said she learned the most about the development of the plants.

“It helped me learn about the roots and how long it will take to develop and actually sprout,” she said.

Clarke said the third-graders really got into the planting experience.

“They were very excited about it; they wanted to put their names on it,” she said. “We reminded them that the plants are for everyone; it’s a community effort… This is not to help one person or one family; it’s to help the whole community. That’s a good social studies lesson.”

Jaydon Evans, 9, learned that gardening is hard work.

“It’s harder than you think to grow stuff,” he said. “A plant needs sunlight and water, you dig the hole only as deep as you need it to be.”

Evans said his family has also planted a garden and he’s looking forward to harvesting it.

For the children’s section of garden, Clarke said some lettuce might be able to be harvested before the students leave for the summer.

“When we come back in the fall, these same kids will be able to see what’s grown,” she said. “We’re trying to get some parents involved so it can be a family thing.”

Karen Kumpf, executive director of Harvest of Hope, which started the community gardens in Marietta, said it just made sense getting the third-graders involved in planting.

“They were getting to know nutritious food last year as second-graders with the Healthy Kids Initiative,” Kumpf said. “Logically, they could be involved with the raised bed gardens this year… The children had never experienced planting of anything. We’re hoping to plant the seed in them that hopefully when they’re older, they want to have a garden.”

Those wanting to help out at Harmar are limited: the spaces in Harmar are down to one, but Cindy Brown, local community garden coordinator for Harvest of Hope, said there are still beds in the other Marietta location by Food-4-Less if others want to get involved.

“We filled (Harmar) in two days,” she said. “We’re very happy about that.”

Brown added that what was special is that children got to help.

“I think getting children involved, whether it’s a community garden, garden at home or at school, producing our own food is probably one of the most basic and important skills we should at least have a working knowledge of,” she said. “As children, if they can be introduced… hopefully they will learn to enjoy that… the best time to learn that skill is as a child.”

Hopefully the children at the school will stay involved, Brown said.

“We’re kind of working the details out on this,” she said. “It would be nice to have an ongoing relationship with the school and have it be and ongoing routine.”