KENT: Winter weather or not, the garden project at Holden Elementary is a year-round endeavor, as shown at the January school board meeting when Lynn Gregor and Karl Liske, two individuals who have been extremely active in the project, were recognized for their efforts.
Gregor, a parent of a Holden student, and Liske have volunteered their expertise to help the Holden Elementary garden since ground was broken on the project in the spring of 2011. At the board meeting, principal Julie Trouman read a proclamation recognizing the two for their service and presented them with a certificate marking the occasion.
Gregor was one of those who pitched the garden idea to Trouman back in 2011 and from there, it has morphed into something much bigger.
"Since then it has kind of grown into a real community project," Trouman explained.
Nearly two years into its run, the garden project has grown steadily based largely on the efforts of volunteers and community members such as Gregor and Liske. Because tending to the planting beds is a necessity when school is out of session in the summer, volunteers maintain them during the summer months and families donate time to work on the beds on the weekends, Trouman explained.
"Karl doesn't have kids at the school, but he is willing to give of his time and expertise to the school because he believes in the project," Trouman said.
Even when the weather turns cold, the project continues in several facets inside the school. Each grade level - with the exception of kindergarten - has its own planting bed and what is grown there ties directly into what students learn in the classroom. Most of the beds are four feet wide and eight feet long and some grades have more than one planting bed.
For example, the fourth graders planted corn, beans and squash last year, crops known as the "Three Sisters," which ties directly into their curriculum that is heavy on Ohio history. The fifth graders planted a salsa garden and harvested their peppers and tomatoes to make their own salsa, learning in the process about how to follow a recipe.
Pumpkins are another crop that students have grown in the garden.
Some plants are also grown inside under light boxes during the winter and then transplanted outside once the weather warms up.
One benefit of the project has been a chance for students whose families live in apartments or housing complexes where they are unable to have a garden to learn about growing crops and working on gardening directly.
"Many of our students live in places where they may not be able to have a garden and parents have mentioned to me that this is a great chance for their kids to do this," Trouman added.
The Parks and Recreation Department, Kent Garden Club and the Kent Environmental Council also assist with the garden, both in caring for the planting beds during the summer and in showing students how to take what they grow and use it to cook healthy foods. Crops have also been donated to the city's farmer's market and students were able to visit the market, set up a table and show off what they had grown.
Although a total of about 200 square feet of planting space is the current extent of the garden, school officials hope to eventually expand its reach to include an outdoor classroom using new property the district recently acquired behind the school.
"We expanded last year and put in some new beds and in the future, the hope is expanding with maybe even some fruit trees," Trouman added.