After nearly four years in the making, the Learning Garden at Windermere Elementary School is bursting with broccoli, lettuce, peppers and tomatoes.
It’s a badge of accomplishment for both the school and parent volunteers who worked tirelessly to bring the garden to life.
“It’s been really amazing,” said Amalie Skorman, the parent who spearheaded the project.
The school celebrated the garden’s grand opening on Wednesday, April 19, with a ribbon cutting ceremony and presentation from the school principal and parent volunteers. Following the ceremonies, each grade took turns exploring the garden.
“I think it’s really cool because we get to do cool stuff with it, and the food in there is really good,” said fifth-grader Maggie Caprise.
Tucked away in a back corner of the school’s property, the garden features ten different beds, a pergola and small garden shed.
“I think it’s a great asset for our school,” said Jenna O’Donoghue, a fifth-grade teacher at the school. “It’s an opportunity to learn in a real environment.”
When Skorman heard about a new trend of creating gardens at schools, she immediately jumped on the idea. Having already started to teach her own children about the value of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, Skorman wanted to bring that same teaching to Windermere Elementary.
“I wanted our kids to have the same opportunities that other schools had,” she said. “And I wanted to give kids what I give my kids at home.”
Before even approaching the school with the idea, Skorman spent months researching how other schools in the state had created their learning gardens. It was a lengthy process, she said, but once the idea was put in front of the school, it was immediately met with approval.
But it wasn’t an overnight transformation. Money had to be raised. Supplies had to be purchased. Land had to be cleared. Beds had to be built. And none of it would have been possible without donations from various sponsors, Skorman said.
Back in January, parent volunteers and students helped plant a variety of vegetables in the garden, some of which have already been harvested.
Three grades have already experienced tasting classes in the garden where they harvested a vegetable and turned it into a dish.
“Most of the students are very receptive of eating straight out of the garden,” Skorman said.
And there are numerous benefits of the learning garden.
“It’s teaching (the students) to be healthy,” Skorman said. “When you have a relationship with food, you’ll be more healthy. Plus kids really do love the outdoors, and having the garden gives them that extra time to go outside.”
With the garden already producing more than expected, any excess produce is given to the teachers to take home.
Over the summer, Skorman said they will continue collecting the harvest until June before solarizing the entire garden to let it rest until the start of the school year in August.
Looking forward, Skorman said she excited to see what the garden brings.
“The possibilities are endless what you can do with a school garden,” Skorman said. “I’d love to see every school have a garden.”
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected]