The Fruits (and Veggies!) of Labor Spring From the Venable Garden

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 | 0 comments

The Fruits (and Veggies!) of Labor Spring From the Venable Garden

Students walk out into the garden, head for the colorful benches and sit down, waiting to get their garden work assignments for the day. They look around for signs that their work earlier in the year has payed off. Some spot peas and strawberries and point to the radishes, others notice how much the mint and lemon balm have spread. It’s spring and the plants are thriving. The students also bursting with energy and enthusiasm – and proud of the fruits of their labor. They are eager to pull the tools from the shed and start digging and planting. Ready to work, they go about their tasks with confidence. It is a typical scene on a weekday morning mid-spring.

At Venable, the garden is planned, planted and maintained by the students during the school year. Each grade has the opportunity at least once a week to do garden work. This past winter, 4th grade classes planned the garden, deciding which vegetables, herbs and flowers to plant for the spring and summer garden and which beds would be most favorable. First, second, third and fourth graders prepared the soil, turning up the red Virginia clay and hardened dirt from winter, mixing in compost and picking out rocks from the beds nestled in between the brick walls and concrete walkway. The collected rocks were used as decoration around the garden or as a barrier to keep debris and dirt out of the drainage area – putting their creativity and problem solving skills to use.

Venable students know that the garden is a place for experimentation. This year, students decided to plant a greater diversity of vegetables and change the traditional location of our mainstay vegetables, flowers and herbs. Curiosity about unfamiliar plants means that okra was planted this year, and corn, a favorite, also gets a spot. Third graders are trying their hand at vermicomposting – feeding their lunch scraps to the red wrigglers hoping to get some “super soil” for the vegetables.

In the spirit of invention, first graders were given the task of designing a trellis for the English peas. Working with STEM teacher, Serena Gruia, and PE teacher, Traci Martin, students worked in groups to draw a design, build a prototype and test it for stability and durability using wind (from a fan) and water. Students voted on the most successful design and worked with Ms. Martin to build it on a large scale. And it worked! It held up beneath the weight of abundant peas and a very rainy spring – as well as kids pulling peas off the vine every chance they got up until the last day of school!

Nestled up to the back of the school with a walkway connecting the two wings of the building, the garden is a central part of Venable students’ daily school life. They walk through the garden to get from one classroom to another and often pick a mint leaf to chew on or smell, observe a flower or plant that wasn’t there the day before, or catch sight of the first butterfly of the season. Venable’s garden is a place where children are able to move freely, dig in the dirt, marvel at bugs, eat carrots, strawberries, peas, and spinach, observe and listen with focused awareness of the nature around them.