Students at Stetser Elementary School in the Chester Upland School District spent their summer recess supporting First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative by planting and maintaining two schoolyard vegetable gardens.
Students grew two 4’ x 8’ raised garden beds featuring a variety of fresh vegetables including radishes, beets, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, string beans, zucchini and yellow squash, all of which will be incorporated into their school lunch program when they return to school next week.
Students took ownership of the gardens and shared responsibility for all aspects of planting and maintenance, including constructing raised beds, mixing soil, weeding, watering and caring for plants. They took turns researching plant characteristics, selecting appropriate cultivars, designing a plot plan, planting seeds and seedlings, harvesting the produce and, of course, eating it.
“Our goal was to keep students actively engaged in learning during the summer while increasing their interest in eating vegetables,” said Stetser Principal Janet Baldwin. “Teaching them firsthand how to construct a raised vegetable garden bed and how to grow a variety of fresh vegetables proved to be a fun and exciting way to accomplish what we set out to do.”
Master gardeners, local environmental groups and parents provided assistance to students at scheduled summer gardening check-ins. A student gardening club coordinated garden activities and developed the final plot plan. Students at all grade levels were involved in the project and will be exposed hands-on, when classes resume, to the many different ways fresh vegetables can be prepared.
A service-learning grant from Earth Force Southeastern Pennsylvania and in-kind donations from the Folsom Home Depot covered expenses related to the gardens, including tools, supplies, plants and truck rental costs.