A cold, brisk autumn day may not have raised many thoughts about gardening, save for a newly completed garden plot at the Wallenpaupack Area Middle School to keep warmer times in mind. Sixth graders attending the dedication on October 25th were also reminded some gardening should be done this time of year, such as planting of garlic or flower bulbs.
The whole adventure in hands-on gardening at the Middle School is helping to bring alive textbook knowledge and inspire youths to engage in the process of food production, noted Principal Keith Gunuskey. School administrators and teachers envision children learning to care for plants as well as one another, as they work together and see what a little tender loving care, some sun, water, fertilizer and patience will do.
Self-reliance, healthy lifestyles and appreciation of where food comes from are expected to grow.
Pride in their accomplishments and in their school is expected to blossom. Assistant Principal William Theobald remarked that the new garden plot is only the beginning, a project that could easily develop as time goes on. Gunuskey said that the crop will hopefully be introduced as part of the cafeteria menu. Announcement would be made to the student body about where the vegetables they are eating originated- on their own school garden plot and nurtured at the hands of their own classmates.
The ribbon cutting celebrated the opening of the garden, which includes several raised beds, a shed with tools and a deer fence. It was funded through a grant totaling over $7,000 from Lackawanna College (Environmental Institute). Additional financial help came from the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program and The Dime Bank. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joann Hudak approached Lackawanna College about the idea.
Three thousand dollars was dedicated for training provided by Lackawanna College, and $4,000 for materials to build the garden.
Gardening lessons will be incorporated into the science and health curriculum in the sixth and seventh grades. At first, the sixth grade class of the 2013-2014 school year will be involved. In the spring they will plant their crops. Over the summer various volunteers will tend to watering, weeding and watching over the plot. In the fall semester of the 2014-2015 school year, the current year sixth grade will have advanced to seventh grade, and will return to harvest their bounty.
Sixth and seventh grade science teachers, as well as teachers in the Health and Physical Education Department have given input, Middle School custodians helped build the garden this summer.
Bob Morgan, a Penn State Master Gardner, has volunteered to help with the garden and was on hand at the dedication to show the sixth graders how to plant garlic.
A higher raised bed will be constructed to accommodate students with physical limitations and other impairments.
Page 2 of 2 - Some of the lessons that have begun in the garden include a scavenger hunt, examining soil to see how it is composed and taking a "garden sensory walk" as a basis for a writing assignment. Future lessons may include testing the soil for proper pH, planning and planting crops that be grown successfully in this part of the country, and harvesting techniques. Cafeteria scraps and school lawn and landscape clippings will be composted to show how it turns into rich, brown topsoil.
Flowers will also be grown. A landscape feature at the garden entrance form a large "W" for Wallenpaupack, dotted with hand-painted rocks and covering bulbs that are expected to blossom in the spring with purple and white flowers- the school colors.