Summerbridge students learn valuable, tasty lessons while tending Sewickley Academy garden

Bobby Cherry
| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 7:46 p.m.

Sustainability is the focus of learning for Summerbridge students at Sewickley Academy's Secret Garden.

Throughout the summer, students have planted, tended to and — the best part, teachers and kids said — eaten a variety of vegetables from the private Edgeworth school's garden on Hazel Lane.

For 15-year-old Tyler Coleman, helping tend to a garden has been an important lesson on understanding how food is developed.

“It's good because you're connected to your food and you know that it's fresh,” the Winchester Thurston School student said. “You don't know how long things are on the (grocery store) shelves for, but you know when you picked it from your garden.”

Living in East Liberty, gardens aren't as spacious as the one at Sewickley Academy, Coleman said.

Even still, he tries to grow habanero peppers each year.

“I like spicy foods,” Coleman said. “Sometimes I eat them straight.”

With Summerbridge, Coleman was part of a class that picked about 10 carrots that ultimately became honey-glazed carrots for him and his classmates, he said.

“I don't like carrots, but those were so good,” he said.

Growing a garden is second nature to Summerbridge teacher Ashley Jones, who said she wants the students to have a better understanding of locally sourced foods.

“A lot of them haven't seen a garden,” Jones said. “Most have never seen carrots grow or watched tomatoes grow on a vine and how they ripen from green to red.”

She leads the classes and shows students how to take care of the variety of vegetables.

“It's cool because they're learning that it just doesn't happen,” Jones said. “You have to water it. You have to tend to it.”

Jones said she encourages students to learn more about how they can grow foods at home — from basil in windowsill pots to finding community plot gardens in city neighborhoods.

“I grew up with gardens,” said Jones, 22, who grew up in Greensburg but now lives in Shadyside. “My grandfather has a huge garden at home, and so does my mom. I'm used to walking down to my grandparents' house and picking whatever food I want and going home and making something — a salad or whatever I want with it. I always grew up with fresh produce.”

Part of the lesson Jones offers students is using foods in different ways, she said.

“What do you do with a tomato other than slice it up and put it on a burger?” she said. “You can make fresh salsa out of it. You don't have to go buy a jar of salsa.”

Jones said she hopes students take what they've learned home to share with families.

“It's important to see where your food does come from,” she said. “Normally, you don't know. You just go to the store and get it. For the kids who go home, they can say, ‘I made this recipe,' or ‘I used fresh produce.' It's encouraging the kids to then do it (at home).”

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or

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