Education in growth: Project Learning Garden is planted by students and adults at Shiloh Hills Elementary

<p><p>Herb fragrances filled the air as Shiloh Hills Elementary students spent a sunny fall morning with hands in the soil, planting a community garden.</p></p><p><p>By late fall, the containers should yield radishes, arugula, spinach and other produce thanks to the school’s win in a contest sponsored by Albertsons, Safeway, Dole Packaged Foods and Captain Planet Foundation.</p></p><p><p>Called Project Learning Garden, the project is funded by a grant valued at $3,000 providing plant supplies, five raised beds, seeds, tools and soil for learning tied to growing. The award also supplies curriculum materials and a mobile kitchen cart to prep fresh garden produce for tasting or to put in dishes.</p></p><p><p>Different classrooms took shifts to start the garden Sept. 23. Third-graders helped build the five raised beds. Students in fourth grade added the soil. By 10:30 a.m., first-graders were planting seeds and herbs.</p></p><p><p>“These are plant starts, and this is thyme – here, smell it,” said Marty Ordman, a Dole spokesman who helped the first-graders. “These are herbs like your parents use to cook.”</p></p><p><p>Ordman, teachers, store leaders and school district board members were on hand to help students start the project. Mead School District’s Shiloh Hills is the only school in Spokane this year to receive the award, Ordman said.</p></p><p><p>The curriculum ideas are for multidisciplinary lessons ranging from nutrition, science and social studies to math and language arts to use for each school year. The students will get chances to understand healthy foods, learn where food comes from and how plants are tended.</p></p><p><!–[photoset id=11467]–></p><p><p>Lisa Horn, Shiloh Hills Elementary School principal, was part of the support crew as the children planted seeds and starts, all with the hope that some will be ready to harvest before heavy frosts.</p></p><p><p>Teaching around a garden will help students with skills into adulthood, she said.</p></p><p><p>“Space is at a premium in a lot of apartments and areas where our kids live, so being able to grow their own food and experience that life cycle we teach about in science is something that’s not common for some of them,” Horn said. “What we’re hoping is that we can instill a love for gardening, understanding where food comes from and perhaps being able to start their own container gardens later.”</p></p><p><p>For much of the school’s garden materials, leaders purchased items at local nurseries and Home Depot to support the Spokane economy, she said. Activity in the garden will be ongoing and tied to STEM learning for much of the school year, except for wintertime. The small mobile kitchen can help teach farm-to-table concepts.</p></p><p><p>“In the spring, we’ll connect this garden to the classes’ science units, and they’ll plant other items like peas, green beans, tomatoes,” Horn added. Different grade levels – first through fifth – will each have a box to tend. “Then our 21st Century Learning students will tend to the garden during the summer. Last year, we had 105 students.”</p></p><p><p>This past spring, Shiloh Hills Elementary in partnership with Boys &amp; Girls Clubs of Spokane County was chosen by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to receive another award, the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. It’s for up to $1.5 million over five years toward “robust summer school and after-school programming, parent workshops and family activities,” the grant information said.</p></p><p><p>Learning in a garden is part of the equation, said Heidi Rae, a Shiloh Hills intervention teacher. With a 21-year career at Shiloh, she wrote the grant paper to get the Project Learning Garden for the school.</p></p><p><p>“This is something I’ve always wanted to do for years,” said Rae, who hopes to get one more garden bed for kindergartners soon. “It’s for kids having hands-on learning, so they learn how things grow, that sometimes things die, that it’s important to nurture something.</p></p><p><p>“We have a lot of apartment dwellers who don’t really have a chance to garden, so I wrote the grant hoping we could at least get a starter. This is perfect. We’re providing curriculum for teachers but also kind of letting kids choose and figure out what they might want to grow and hopefully share that with the school. We get a kitchen cart, so they’ll be learning how to prepare food and taste different plants that they might not get to taste. The biggest part are things like getting kids outside and learning together.”</p></p><p><p>Teachers hope to host a chips-and-salsa night with families that uses vegetables from the garden, or do other themed events in coming years such as a salad night or a potato bar. The school’s kindergartners each year do a lesson around pumpkins, so Rae said it would be fun to have first-graders planting those gourds.</p></p><p><p>Ordman, the Dole spokesman, said the grant program has supplied more than 300 Project Learning Garden sites.</p></p>