One of our biggest successes so far this season is the large amounts of local children involved in the garden. This season, every plant we transplanted and seed we sowed was started by a student in pre-kindergarten to sixth grade. In the garden, students work confidently together to decide how they want to plant their garden. Currently the students seeded beets, carrots, radishes, peas, greens, potatoes and beans. They transplanted tomatoes, cucumbers, flowers, corn, squash, kale, chard and cabbage, all of which they grew from seed in their classrooms.
What challenges did or does your project face?
Creating a healthy compost system remains one of our biggest challenges. Compost is collected every day at school lunches; however, we continue to see a large amount of trash and non-compostable items making their way into the compost bins. Additionally, our compost is not breaking down into usable material. Compost making is the main way our garden receives soil to fill the raised-beds. Without good compost, our plants may not have enough soil and nutrients to grow healthfully.
How are you working to overcome them?
We are currently working to overcome our compost challenge by creating a new compost bin and carefully monitoring and recording the materials that go into it. Since school is out of session for the summer, we are using a variety of locally sourced compost materials to quickly produce a large quantity of compost that will be ready to add to beds in the fall. We are brainstorming and rethinking how we compost at school lunches and hoping to implement new strategies, such as sorting compost into containers, such as five-gallon buckets, that look distinctively different than trash cans. Students in high school are helping this summer to sort the trash out of the compost bins. We hope these "compost crusaders" will help us implement change in the school compost system by being present at lunchtime to help other students understand the importance of keeping trash out of the compost.
What did you or your project learn this season that might be useful to others as well?
This season our project learned that maintaining a consistent presence in the school classrooms helps ensure that the students stay involved at the garden in the summer when school is not in session. By regularly working with the teachers to bring nutrition and gardening activities into the classroom and allowing the classes to make several visits to the garden, the students' interest in gardening expands and they show up regularly at the garden to help in the summertime.