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Food or no food, Midland Elementary garden will be a learning experience for students

Parents, staff and students combine to create a garden in a volunteer project outside Midland Elementary during the spring semester that ended in May. The school building is in the background at far right.
Courtesy of Patty Donovan
In a project involving students, staff, parents and local businesses, Midland Elementary started a garden last spring.
       “Every grade got out there for some component,” said school librarian Patty Donovan. “Everyone got dirty out there.”
       Close to 300 square feet in size and filled with vegetable plants, the garden has been staying green through the summer. Various people have volunteered (including herself) to do weeding and watering, she explained.
       With an enrollment of about 175 students and an inquiry-based International Baccalaureate (IB) educational focus, Midland Elementary is located off Broadway Street, west of 21st. The garden is set back several hundred feet from Broadway, near the school office north of the parking lot, but can still be seen from the street.
       The garden idea came originally from a parent with a child in student government. It immediately caught on. “At all IB schools, we design our science and social studies curricula in planners,” Donovan said, “and the garden idea fit teachers' planners in nearly every grade level.” Such topics include Sustaining the Earth's Resources, Farm to Table,
The Midland Elementary garden looks healthy in this photo shot July 15. It's being tended during the summer by volunteers. Students will get to take it back over when they return to school Aug. 18.
Westside Pioneer photo
Balanced Ecosystems, Water Cycle, Weather and Plant Growth.
       District 11 approved Midland's request to start a garden, and volunteer efforts got going in earnest.
       Requests for business assistance were rewarded when Murphy Constructors - whose office is across the street - “donated generously to get the project under way and provided the materials to build seven raised beds, one for each classroom,” Donovan said.
       Also helping out was Rocky Top Resources, an independently owned Colorado Springs landscape supply company, which “gave us a 'good bro' deal on three- way-mix topsoil and free delivery,” she said.
       Other financial help came from the IB program and numerous parents.
       Physical labor followed. “We organized a couple of family workdays [the first in April] and had enormous turnouts,” Donovan reported, with students participating in the layout planning.
       Unexpected educational aspects resulted when the region got socked in by heavy rains and cold weather beginning later in April. Classrooms had to consider whether they planted too early and why most of the seeds died. “It was a good learning experience,” Donovan said, adding that replanting efforts later in the spring showed signs of survival as the school year ended in late May. Placed in the ground were seeds for lettuce, spinach, beans, corn squash, tomatoes, onions, strawberries, rhubarb, cucumbers and peas.
       Looking forward to the coming school year - which will start Aug. 18 - Donovan said the student garden emphasis will continue to be on learning, not necessarily success. “Even if nothing grows, it will be an inquiry subject,” she said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 7/15/15; Schools: Midland Elementary)

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