Mustang Valley Elementary students are being taught more than just what you’ll find on end-of-year tests.
As part of their school day, the students help take care of the school garden.
“We decided to create a school garden as a project to kind of get the kids outside some and start teaching them skills that aren’t teaching skills and teach them skills they can carry into their real life,” said Misty Eidson, third grade teacher at Mustang Valley who is in charge of the garden. “We hope that they have something to carry on into their real life that they can do in the future on their own. We not only show them how to plant it and the responsibility that it takes to grow, but also how to prepare it.”
After picking the vegetables from the garden, the students clean and prepare them before bringing the vegetables in to taste them.
“We introduce them to new foods, as well as how to prepare it for their family one day,” Eidson said.
The garden was put in with the help of parents, grandparents, PTA, faculty and students who volunteered last summer.
“Last summer we had people here all the time and now we just keep adding to it,” Eidson said.
Precure Garden Center and Lowes donated some of the supplies, and the PTA donated money.
The art teacher also incorporated art into the garden by having each grade level paint the stones to go into the pea gravel surrounding the garden.
“The kids each kind of have their hand print in it, which is cool,” Eidson said. “It’s just turned into a big project where we all come out at least once a day to water, weed and harvest and stuff like that,”
The garden is made up of different beds for kindergarten through fourth grade. Eidson said although everyone helps with every bed, she likes having different beds for each grade level as a way to make sure all the teachers take responsibility in the school garden, but also it allows the students to take ownership of the garden.
The students plant a fall garden and a spring garden so they get exposure to a variety of vegetables.
Eidson said she was surprised how many children weren’t familiar with gardening or the vegetables they grow.
“They didn’t know as much as I thought they would know with different vegetables and things like that. I’ve also been surprised with how few kids have tasted some of the vegetables we’ve grown. We’re finding a lot that they’re not familiar with this,” she said. “Some are, but we had to teach the difference between a weed and a vegetable. We also notice a lot they are very unfamiliar with preparing the food once they take it in. Then even just telling some of them a part—what’s a pea, what’s a green bean—and how to harvest them, stuff like that.”
Unfortunately, Mustang Valley are not able to use any of the fresh vegetables in the cafeteria due to laws regarding child nutrition and what can be brought in to the cafeteria, but some of the teachers do use the vegetables for snack time in their classes.
The students have fun with it and get to learn skills they may not otherwise learn, Eidson said.
“I’ve been pleased it kind of gives our kids a brain break—a break to get out of the classroom. Research shows that they need more breaks and time outside so this has kind of been the perfect opportunity for our kids to have that time outside and to also have more experience with it,” Eidson said. “It’s been fun. My kids love to come out here.”
Mustang Valley is also in the process of building a weather station so next year the students can check the weather. They’re also adding a rain barrel and composter to implement in the fall.
One of their standards is conservation so Eidson said they’re excited to get the rain barrel out there and water from it next year.