Glide Elementary School’s pizza-shaped garden boxes are held together with boards and cinder blocks instead of cheese and dough, but the vegetables will spill over the sides just the same.
These raised beds are one of several new additions to the school’s Paw Patch garden that greeted students and parents at registration Wednesday and today.
After registering, families could plant lettuce seedlings or simply walk through the garden, sampling raspberries or trying to spot the rare red tomato hiding in the vines.
Another addition is the part-time garden assistant, the first paid position in the garden’s history. Kelli Long, already a substitute teacher and translator, will receive $5,000 from a Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe grant to work with students on the garden at recess, coordinate volunteers and operate the garden’s website.
Long grew up on a farm and studied agriculture in college. Now she has her own garden where she said she “grows everything,” sending her produce surpluses to the pantries of food banks or her neighbors.
“Like our mission statement says, it’s a place of hands-on learning,” Long said of the garden. “Kids learn where their food comes from and so much of what is learned in the classroom comes to life.” She said teachers have even used the garden to conduct math lessons by teaching about area and perimeter.
Long’s not the only one passionate about the school garden. This summer, about a dozen parents and other community volunteers brought their kids to the garden Monday mornings and evenings to work. They constructed the pizza box beds, planted donated raspberry bushes and harvested squash, beans and tomatoes for their families to eat.
“Produce is expensive,” said elementary school parent Lindsey Birch, who volunteered in the garden with her family this summer. “But our family wants to eat healthy. This taught people how to.”
Birch said the children were constantly asking questions, such as “What do you eat this with?” or “Is this purple tomato safe to eat?” She recalls second-grade boys were thrilled about shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow and carting it to garden beds.
“They didn’t get much in there, but I think they felt grown-up doing it,” she said laughing.
Birch’s first-grade daughter, Rhylee, also helped in the garden. Eating and planting lettuce were her favorite activities, she said. She held out a hand to demonstrate how to properly plant lettuce: one hand length apart and two knuckles down. “It was fun to work in the garden,” she said.
This will be the first year that produce from the garden will be used in the cafeteria. While the produce isn’t enough to save the school money, the spinach, lettuce, carrots and radishes will be mixed with the cafeteria’s iceberg lettuce.
The garden is mostly complete, save for an arbor entry and shed that Long hopes will be funded by a Ben Serafin grant. Serafin was a longtime Glide resident and rancher. The paperwork for the grant is still pending. Long said if the school receives it, she hopes the pieces will be built in the spring.
Students can choose to work in the garden during recess or on Fridays. Older students can earn badges that allow them to work in the garden without the supervision of the garden assistant.
“Most kids totally love it,” Long said. “It’s a different place where they can be successful.”
•You can reach reporter Kate Stringer at 541-957-4208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.