Lincoln Elementary has high hopes for school garden

Sunday, May 6, 2018
Lincoln Elementary fifth-grade students finished the first phase of the school's garden project which is aimed at allowing the students to raise fresh vegetables at the school.
Photo submitted

Spencer Community School District nurse Cammy Hinkeldey said, "The sky is the limit" for the Lincoln Elementary garden project which just completed its design phase with presentations by fifth-grade students to community members last week. School officials said the presentations were well-received by the community and the students are excited about the project moving into the next stage.

"The kids are working on this project during their science time," Lincoln Elementary Principal Cindy DeVlaeminck said. "WIth this whole garden project we are aligning to the Next Generation Science Standards. There are fourth-grade science standards that have to do with plants and animals and the fifth-grade also has standards. We are going to incorporate this garden into the plant part of that so growing and living things."

The fifth-grade students began conducting research for the project about six weeks ago. They had to figure out the size of the garden, where to locate it, what materials they would need, how to keep animals out, how to get the proper sunlight and a water source and what type of garden they wanted to have.

Preliminary plans have the garden located west of the backdoors to the school. The garden will allow the each Lincoln student have a 1- to 1 1/2-foot garden plot. There will most likely be two separate H-shaped areas with each leg of the H approximately 3 by 16 feet to allow the students access without forcing them into the dirt.

"Our hopes are to construct the garden yet this month which would allow the kids time to plant before the end of the school year," DeVlaeminck said.

The school is planning a follow-up event to allow parents to see the children's presentations. The event will take place over the lunch hour from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, May, 18.

"What is exciting for me as a nurse is getting the parents involved in the health aspect as well," Hinkeldey said. "The kids are so excited about this, especially learning about vegetables and getting outside. That will trickle down to the families when parents see how excited the kids are. We hope that will trigger an interest in gardening and growing their own food. It is kind of a lost art for some people."

The roots of the activity began when DeVlaeminck attended a Project Based Learning workshop in February and began to take shape when Hinkeldey volunteered to use her experience with gardening and nutrition to secure a grant. The school received $750 from CF Industries as part of their mini-grant program earlier this year. Hinkeldey hopes to obtain additional funding to expand the project in the future.

Hinkeldey is looking to the future with ideas including providing fresh vegetables for school lunches, participating in an annual planting season by the fourth-grade students in the spring, a harvest by the fifth-grade students in the fall and possibly donating some of the produce to local food pantries or hosting a farmer's market event.

"What we plant is going to vary year-to-year," Hinkeldey said. "We will learn a lot through trial and error. We have done carrots. We have tossed around ideas of possibly having a garden club. Also, getting some families to adopt a plot. It really depends on what the students find out through their continued research. We will also tap into community resources such as Del's Garden Center and we plan to bring in guest speakers."

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