George Wolf Elementary School has been busy with their newest outdoor, hands-on learning project that offers students the chance to discover where nutritional foods come from while cultivating their connection with nature.
The community garden project began in March with seed starting in classrooms and a coin drive for grade level planters. On the weekend of April 23, a team of teachers, families and volunteers broke ground on the elementary school garden, building raised wooden beds, tilling the soil, mulching, and assembling planters.
Students raised over $2,000 through a coin drive and the school’s PTA provided a generous donation for the garden. The school also received seed starting soil from Terra Fauna Farms and a generous donation from PPL’s Community Roots program, which provided over 100 native species plants.
In addition to the seed starting the elementary students were able to do in the classrooms, they recently began planting native species plants to help attract pollinators, sowing seeds for crops such as kale, spinach and radishes, voting on their favorite vegetables to plant and care for, and completing art and garden projects in their art class with their K-5 art instructor and Garden Chair Amanda Twombly.
Twombly and the George Wolf garden team came up with the idea for the community garden after a difficult two years due to Covid restrictions. Twombly stated she felt a disconnect from her students during and after digital learning, which is how the idea for the garden came to fruition.
Twombly expressed, “Seeing kids enjoy hands-on work with living things is more than just a little rewarding. Just this morning there were screams of delight and wonder as students uncovered worms in the dirt to add to our raised garden beds. Caring for things smaller than you and that can provide you nutrition is a humbling and character-building experience.”
The George Wolf Elementary faculty came up with four garden types, each with various learning purposes. The vegetable garden will provide students with learning opportunities about health and nutrition; the native species garden will teach students about pollinators, why they are important to the environment, and how to conserve lands and use them properly for future generations; the herb garden is extremely beneficial to special needs students because it will provide them with a touch, smell and taste sensory experience; and the digging garden with open soil can be used to teach students about soil, how to care for it, and why it is essential for growing food.
Twombly added, “This is a very long-term project. We are hoping the garden expands each year and becomes a fixture in the curriculum taught here at George Wolf. Creating an ‘outdoor classroom’ can ensure that students are using the garden and enjoying all of its benefits. The team is most excited to see the students experiencing joy. The wonder and awe of building something and caring for it is irreplaceable by any technology. This is a way for students to get back to their ‘roots.’”
George Wolf Elementary kindergarten teacher Gina VanLuvanee shared, “The garden has already brought the students and staff closer as a community and we don’t even have crops yet! The added bonus will be the crops that we’ll be able to use and donate to the community outside of George Wolf.”
With the community garden being a long-term project for the elementary students, faculty and staff, the garden team has created a tentative schedule for the remainder of the school year, summer, and beginning of the next school year, and the George Wolf Elementary PTA has also graciously approved the allocation of funds for the school to purchase plants each year.
Once the garden begins growing ripe produce, the garden team will be giving excess produce to George Wolf families in need and the Bath Area Food Bank, since fresh food is rarely donated and distributed at food banks, making it a great asset to the community.
Twombly stated, “Seeing food come from the earth and eating it seconds later is so rewarding. I keep a small garden at home with my children and they too love plucking the cherry tomatoes right from the vine. Experiences that connect us to nature are what I feel like makes a good life.”
For more information on the George Wolf Elementary School community garden, email Garden Chair Amanda Twombly at firstname.lastname@example.org.