“My nana bought me new garden gloves to use at the garden today,” she said as she led the way to the Lakeland Elementary section of the Lewisville Community Garden.
She is Gia Clement, a first-grade student at Lakeland Elementary. Like most of the students, she was really excited about digging in the dirt and growing fruits and vegetables – activities made possible through a Lewisville ISD Education Foundation Campus Grant awarded to Lakeland’s “Seed to Feast” proposal.
“Students today don’t typically garden,” Lakeland Kindergarten Teacher Dana Shackelford explained. “The idea of playing in the dirt and growing food is really exciting for them. As teachers, we’re thrilled to be able to show academic concepts students would normally learn from a book in science, or give older students a reference point for the crop lessons they have in social studies. It is one way we can help them engage and gain understanding of the lessons.”
When Shackelford partnered with Lakeland Science Discovery Teacher Angela Dierschke, to create the garden for Lakeland students, they planned to allow students and teachers to walk to the garden – located just off the Lakeland campus on the adjoining property where First Christian Church hosts the Old Town Community garden – based on a sign up system similar to the ones teachers used to sign up for computer labs and other shared facilities. While they hoped the garden would see tremendous use, they couldn’t really be sure what to expect.
In March each class made a first trip to the garden for orientation. They learned about the tools, which were just the right size for children’s hands; the storage shed where everything was stored; the water source; and the community aspect of the garden, which meant students should be careful to look, and not touch, the beds other than Lakeland’s. Students also heard from a gardening expert who came to speak to each kindergarten, first- and second-grade class.
With so much information in their minds, and such excitement about being outside and working in the dirt, students and teachers developed an affinity for the outdoor space and the lessons it provided. “We were even able to host a family/volunteer work day,” Shackelford explained. “Parents and teachers worked with students to weed the beds and top them off with new soil.
“And, we really did have a ‘feast’ from the Old Town Community Garden,” Shackelford continued. “While we did not actually grow all the vegetables in our plot, they were all grown and shared by Old Town Community gardeners, teaching our students a wonderful lesson in generosity.
Whether it was the fresh air, the chance to dig in the dirt and get a little dirty, the kid-size tools, the pride of eating food they helped grow, or the opportunity to show off those new garden gloves, something about the garden impacted students and piqued their interest in garden-related lessons and activities.
“I’ve been Principal at Lakeland for 10 years,” Jimmy Crockett said. “We have had the great fortune of receiving numerous LEF grants over the years, but I’ve never seen one that has had such a profound effect on so many students and adults as well. Our younger grades in particular just love going and working in the garden and this spring they have really reaped the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor (literally!). They enjoyed hands-on opportunities to learn how plants grow. Thank you, LEF.”