Forest Grove Elementary students reap harvest of garden

Hands on learning about nutrition through garden

Healthy school-grown and student-harvested greens were on the menu for Forest Grove Elementary School’s school lunch on Sept. 27.

While the school does bi-weekly school-wide lunches, this was the first to feature vegetables grown on school grounds. Principal Mikel Brogan hopes it will become part of a tradition of gardening at the school.

“For us who are focusing so much on healthy eating and organic foods and that sort of thing, it was really neat for us to be able to grow so much food on site and then put it into our food program.”

The program was started thanks to Laura Markila, a Forest Grove resident who helped get the the community garden now established at Forest Grove Elementary off the ground.

“She basically orchestrated the whole program for our school,” says Brogan.

While there were some worries over what would happen to the garden while the school was out for summer, Markila took on responsibility for the project.

“She took it on and she went out and she got Timber Mart to donate all the wood, she got community members to get the dirt for the project and then I was able to get seeds from the community as well, so the seeds were donated. Basically, the community stepped up in every regard so that we could do this project without any money. The school district was able to hook us up with water and then we went outside and we decided on a place to do it.”

Markila made the raised boxes with her two children, put the dirt into the boxes, helped plant the garden, and took care of it through the summer.

In thanks, the school lunch, cooked by Emma McKay and made with the produce, was held in her honour.

Now that the garden is up and running, Brogan hopes it will continue into the future.

“Next year, each class will have their own box,” he says. Each class will, in conjunction with lessons in anything from science to P.E., plan out a box that they will then plant with Markila’s help.

“It’s cross-curricular learning. We go and we learn about all of these things and then they can decide what they want to pick and what they want to grow and then we go out together,” says Brogan. “Each class will plant their seeds, come up with a plan on how they want to do it, learn and then actually go out and do it.

“Into the spring they are all going to plant it and then they are going to watch it grow, and then she waters it over the summer and then next fall we’ll do the same harvest again.”

Brogan says it also fits into the new curriculum, in that students will be participating in hands-on learning.

“There is so much of an alienation process nowadays from food, that people don’t always know where it comes from, so for students to actually be part of that process from the ground to their stomachs, that makes a huge difference … Being part of the growing part, of the planting part, of that whole process I think helps them appreciate it more and puts more value on it, and the kids are so into it out here.”

Brogan extends a “huge thanks” to Markila for getting the program up and running.

I really would encourage other schools, if they can, to adopt a community or a school garden because I think there is so much value in the learning that can take place.”

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Students from Ms. Dahl’s Grade 2-3 class show off carrots they just picked from Forest Grove Elementary School’s first harvest of vegetables from the school’s new community gardens. Submitted photo.

Students from Ms. Dahl’s Grade 2-3 class also snap a pick with the fresh produce they picked. Submitted photo.

Laura Markilla holds a bowl of soup during a Forest Grove Elementary school lunch held in her honour made from the vegetables harvested from the community garden she helped to make. Submitted photo.

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