Rows of silvery cabbage leaves, bright arugula and multicolored lettuces popped up this year behind the football field at Patton Junior High School.
Chris Clemmons’ science students have planted their very own vegetable garden. They’re starting with vegetables that will grow quickly for the fall such as lettuce, beets, kale, cabbage and carrots. They’re also learning to compost plant waste from the school cafeteria.
Clemmons said the project is a way to teach students about science while doing fun activities outside.
“I can cover three-fourths of the Kansas state standards with this garden,” he said.
Students learn about the ecosystem in which some pests eat the vegetables, and helpful insects feed on the insect pests. They’ve already experienced deer and rabbits eating their vegetables and have to come up with their own method of keeping them away — a motion-activated scarecrow. Students also learn about plant structure and reproduction, and through the compost they’re also learning about decay.
“It’s not just teaching content, it’s teaching problem solving and working together,” Clemmons said.
Poncé Shepard, seventh-grader, said he had helped his mother with gardening in the past, but never to the extent of having a classroom garden.
“I think it’s a good experience,” he said. “We get to see how produce grows. Instead of going out and buying it, we get to see how the process goes.”
Jade Williams, seventh-grader, said she enjoyed getting to be outside.
“I like actually doing stuff instead of hearing a lecture,” she said.
Julia Morales, seventh-grader, never had a garden before. She said she is learning a lot from the garden.
“We’ve talked about how plants know which way to grow because of gravity; you plant a seed and the roots go down,” she said.
Rochelle Hill, custodian at Patton, takes uneaten produce from the school cafeteria each day to add to the compost pile. The cafeteria staff uses a separate container for plant waste only, following a list of items they are able to compost. Hill said many of the Patton staff enjoy helping the students with the garden. Maintenance staff tilled the garden, and teachers also help out by adding coffee grounds to the compost.
“It’s amazing to watch because I can fill it up every day and come back and it’s already gone down,” she said.
Clemmons said students would plant again in the spring.