Hawthorne Elementary students got their hands dirty on Earth Day, breaking ground on their first vegetable garden, celebrating a new picnic shelter and hosting a community outdoor-learning fair.
Thanks to an active parent organization and a “go-getter” of a principal, Hawthorne students will grow and harvest food for a Thanksgiving feast. The expansive garden will produce vegetables and serve as an outdoor education center, advancing science and health curriculum.
“Studies have shown that students who participate in science and health-based garden activities score higher on science tests, and willingly incorporate healthier foods into their diets,” said Erin Guerricabeitia, executive director of the Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS). “A student who is able to dig in the soil, plant a seed, and watch it grow will discover that they are excited to eat the fruits of their labor, and that they understand the science behind a sprouting seed or photosynthesis.”
BUGS trained educators and parents on how to start a school garden. This spring, each grade will plant a bed of vegetables, including turnips, carrots, tomatoes and onions. A team of parent and student volunteers will weed and watch over the beds through the summer.
Mother Nature willing, the kids return in the fall to crops they can study and then harvest in time for a special Thanksgiving meal prepared by staff and parents.
“Hawthorne Elementary is the perfect place for an urban-school garden,” Principal Beverly Boyd said. “Building this garden and permanent community shelter will bring together our students, parents and community members by providing projects that beautify the school and teaches us about our food sources and our environment.”
The students also celebrated on Tuesday the completion of a permanent picnic shelter secured when the Vista Neighborhood Association applied for and received grant monies from the City of Boise Neighborhood Reinvestment Grant.
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The picnic shelter will be shared by the school and the community. On Tuesday, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter did the honors of a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We don’t have a park very close by so we’re grateful to be sharing this resource,” said Amy Pence-Brown, a mother of three and Hawthorne’s PTO president and school garden coordinator.
Hawthorne has more grand plans, including adding a walking path and native plants to the school grounds.
Another huge help to Hawthorne’s outdoor additions has been Whole Foods Boise and the Whole Kids Foundation, which funded a $2,000 start-up grant used to buy seeds, top soil and tools for the garden. The wooden garden beds were built and donated by Boise’s Whole Foods store employees and volunteers.
Tuesday’s Earth Day celebration included 20 interactive booths on gardening and recycling and other learning activities for students, families and community members. Students from Borah High showed the kids how to make art from plastic bottles and planter boxes from newspaper.
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