Merced students learn science via community garden

12/08/2013 7:39 PM

12/08/2013 10:13 PM

Charles Wright Elementary School students are taking a hands-on approach to science thanks to a community garden now producing a bumper crop of winter vegetables.

Fifth-grade teacher Jaime Enriquez is the coordinator of the 20- by 50-foot garden nestled among several classroom buildings. The Merced school’s 500 students are tending cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and onions and learning about plant structure, plant development and the importance of air, water and sunlight in growing things.

“Students are excited about the garden,” Enriquez said. “Many students haven’t done any gardening before. Through this garden, learning will come alive and teaching standards will become more meaningful.”

Fifth-grader Daniel Gonzalez likes getting dirty and enjoys shoveling dirt. Ellie Tarbell, 10, also likes playing with the dirt and learning how plants grow and what they become.

Wright School Principal Lori Slaven said the garden is excellent preparation for transitioning into Common Core instructional standards. It’s hands-on teaching as students prepare the soil, plant seeds, water and weed the growing plants.

Slaven said the garden helps students direct energy into something positive. It has had a big impact on student behavior, and youngsters get motivated to work in the garden.

“It’s something we need,” Slaven said. “There’s no better way to learn something new. I’m very pleased with the impact the garden has had on students’ learning.”

Enriquez said children at all grade levels were encouraged to participate in the garden and use their creativity.

“The students will have a sense of ownership and pride in what will be grown in the garden,” Enriquez said. “I am confident that when the garden gets established, the benefits to all students and adults involved will be phenomenal. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn what it takes to put food on the table.”

The school’s custodians, other teachers, parents and businesses helped build the garden and donate necessary materials. Enriquez is hoping the garden will be self-sustainable. The school may be able to hold a plant sale in the spring.

Students soon will get to sample what they have grown, making all the hard work more meaningful, Enriquez said.

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