Getting back to the garden


PIQUA — A favorite program within the Piqua City School district is returning after a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic — a hiatus that was palpable, according to a school administrator.

“An entire group of students was unable to experience planting and growing in our garden. That is time that they will never have again,” Piqua City Schools Director of Curriculum and Instruction Scott Bloom said.

The Garden Tribe is a school garden located across the street from Piqua Central Intermediate School, providing all fifth grade students in Piqua City Schools and Piqua Catholic a small, individual space that allows them to learn about gardening in a hands-on environment. Each fall and spring, every student plants their seeds in their section of the raised beds. After the plants have matured, the crops are harvested and the students get to sample the food that day. The remaining vegetables are served in the school cafeteria. The program was first started in 2017, after a year and a half of planning, thanks to efforts from community leader Ruth Koon.

“Initially, the goal was to provide a hands-on learning experience in science. Early on, we could see many more benefits that were happening, such as enhanced socialization, appreciation of the farming industry, eating new varieties of healthy food, awareness of weather conditions and climate and even the value of following directions to get your seeds to grow. It’s a program that offers every student a learning opportunity in some way,” Master Gardener Mary Lou Fierce said.

According to Fierce, two varieties of plants are grown each session and within the school year students will have planted spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce and radishes. Students are taught by master gardeners on how to plant the seeds and what is involved in the process in order to be successful. Additionally, the fifth grade science teachers bring their classes to the garden during the growing time to observe and teach the concepts of ecosystems, energy in organisms and ecosystems, light, producers, foundations of food web, photosynthesis and transfer of energy.

“The garden space is used for far more than gardening, as it has become a reflective area in nature for students to learn and study in any subject. The students often share what they learned in the garden at home,” Fierce said.

While three sessions of the program were shut down due to the pandemic, the garden still found use. Many individual classes used the space due to the open air and the distancing the garden allowed with multiple benches and picnic tables. Currently, the garden is heading into a full session for the fall, and the master gardeners are planning a spring 2022 session. Additionally, fourth grade students will get to experience a Junior Farmer’s Market held in the gardening space, held in conjunction with the OSU Agriculture Extension.

“The students, teachers and gardeners are excited to be able to work in our garden space. We have already mapped out the year for the students and the gardeners are hard at work getting the garden beds ready for the kids,” Bloom said.

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