Hempfield students get taste of gardening with new project
Hempfield Area students are learning the benefits and responsibilities of tending to a garden, thanks to a new project at West Hempfield Middle School.
Two raised vegetable beds growing radishes, beets and spinach are cared for by students in the school’s garden club, science teacher Tim Hines said. By planting a garden, students are learning gardening techniques and practices, in addition to working together as a group, he said.
“Getting them outside and digging in a giant woodchip pile, transporting a wheelbarrow through the hallways to the outside space, planting seeds and thinning seedlings — it makes them happy,” Hines said. “It also provides them with an authentic experience to demonstrate skills they have learned outside of school, and to learn skills such as how to grow food and plants that benefit their health and the ecosystem health of their backyard habitat.”
So far, students have learned about the natural nutrient cycle and decomposers through a cover mulch system, a layer of organic materials placed over an existing lawn that encourages natural process and tills the soil. Over the summer, students will work on a rotating schedule to weed and water the garden.
The garden, which was started in March, is set to expand, with tomatoes, sweet peppers and butternut squash ready to be transplanted from a greenhouse. Students also planted fig trees in a courtyard garden.
Over the next year, the garden will grow in phases, Hines said, adding he hopes the space continues to be an area where students learn about ecology in a native habitat and are able to use it as a place to taste organic and fresh produce.
Native flowering plants such as coneflowers, milkweed, joe-pye weed and winterberry, along with more fruit trees and bushes, will soon be incorporated into the garden, and a community-wide initiative will allow local residents to drop off yard waste and kitchen scraps for a composting program.
A letter written by seventh-grade student Ciara Gaskell asks the community for items such as leaves, fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, dead weeds and wood chips.
“It’s a shame how much we can waste already,” she wrote, adding that over 1 billion tons of food is wasted each year.
“If you didn’t help out with this project, there would be one less opportunity to terminate the world issue of air pollution,” she said. “The compost sequesters carbon dioxide, so it isn’t hovering in the oxygen for us to inhale.”
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .