At last a garden grows for BV students

       After three years and two buildings, Buena Vista Elementary students started planting its first all-school garden this week.

While other students wait their turns, Buena Vista Montessori teacher Natalie Sardi helps Miles Murphy plant a blueberry bush in her class' plot in the new garden on the east side of the school this week.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The roughly 300 square feet is subdivided into eight same-size plots (one for each class), with the students in each getting to decide what they'll grow.
       The school-wide goal is to harvest ripe fruits and vegetables in the fall for the school's annual soup feast. In the past the children have brought in food donations. “This year they want it to be from the garden to the plate,” said Natalie Sardi, who teaches Lower Elementary (grades 1-3).
       Her students were the first this week to put things into the soil. Students took turns with stepping stones , a bird bath, flowers, vegetables and fruit plants. The flowers will attract bees for pollination, she explained.
       Some of the future edibles will be blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, potatoes and cilantro. The students also have plants they've been growing from seeds in the classroom that they hope to get into the ground before school lets out, she said.
       A garden or even a small farm is a typical aspect of Montessori education, providing a range of educational possibilities, Sardi said. Students have already started a worm farm and learned about composting, she noted.
       During the summer, the garden will be overseen by 14 families who are involved with the school, said Michelle Moore, president of the Buena Vista PTA.
       The project has been nudged forward by the PTA since Buena Vista was in its old buildings in the 1600 block of West Bijou Street. The hope then was to have a garden in the playground (actually in about the same spot as the community garden that's tentatively planned for next year outside the community center that's in the facility now).
       The PTA had to rethink its gardening geography when District 11 relocated Buena Vista's Montessori school to the former Washington school site at 924 W. Pikes Peak Ave. for the current school year. Ironically, Washington Elementary - inspired by Buena Vista's planning example - had begun efforts the previous year to build a garden space at the east end of the building. But Washington closed after last year, and that's the space where Buena Vista school leaders decided to put their garden.
       Advance preparation was still needed. Sardi credited the PTA for preparing the garden (including building retaining walls and putting in soil), obtaining a $3,000 grant, and securing donations of plants, seeds, stepping stones and even a bird bath that will go into the north end of the garden.

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