Roosevelt Elementary students get hands dirty in school garden

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Saturday, June 4, 2011
— Lauren Smith tasted her first radish Friday.

“That was so awesome! It was so spicy! But awesome.”

“Kinda spicy, but weird,” agreed Shaylee Smith, 8.

The Roosevelt Elementary School third-graders had just pulled the red-and-white roots from the soil in the school’s garden and rinsed them in cool water. Some of them still clutched the greens in their hands.

They were having fun but doing exactly what Diedre Richard had hoped they would do.

“This is what this is about: getting kids to eat things they wouldn’t otherwise eat,” Richard said.

Richard, a Roosevelt parent and former school board member, had been trying to get a garden started at the school for some time.

After a grant request was rejected, she and others asked for local businesses to chip in.

Dvorak Landscape Supply, Farm & Fleet, Marling Lumber and Janesville Rental all donated materials. Parents kicked in cash and tools as well.

Craig High School tech-ed students built raised-bed frames, and parents came out one day in April to dig up a strip of the Roosevelt lawn.

Now the four 4-by-10-foot raised beds hold radishes, carrots, peas, beans, beets and Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts?

Richard is confident the kids will eat even those.

“Sometimes it makes a difference if you pick your own,” she said.

A summer school class will consume the green beans and then replant so kids will have beans next fall.

Eventually, Richard hopes to grow enough carrots so the kids can prepare them for snack time.

Richard also gives lessons in gardening, such as the fine points of distinguishing weeds from seedlings, loosening the soil and watering. Kids took turns Friday doing those jobs.

The ultimate goal is to get children interested in gardening and eating healthful produce. Some might even get their parents to garden at home.

Gardening also helps with classroom work.

“Life cycles is part of the third-grade science curriculum, so it fits quite nicely,” teacher Hope Langston said.

Many of the kids don’t garden at home, so it’s a new world for them, Langston said.

Others know exactly what they’re doing, such as first-grader Attreau Anderson, but even he enjoyed his garden time Friday.

“Look it! I’m going to take this one home!” the 7-year-old said as he showed off his freshly pulled radish.

“My mom has a full garden—radishes, acorn squash and cucumbers,” Attreau said proudly.

Only the radishes are ready for harvest as the school year draws to a close this week, but a parent group is being formed to watch over the garden during the summer.

Plans are to expand the garden next year, with activities running from April through summer school and into pumpkin time in October.

Last updated: 5:44 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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