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Students at the Kenny explore the garden


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Food Access

Green City Growers, an organization that installs raised garden beds in schools and leads garden lessons in outdoor classrooms, partnered with the Kenny School in Dorchester.

As the FoodCorps service member at the Kenny, I teamed up with Green City Grower’s Farmer Educator, Emily Reckard, to engage students in hands-on lessons in gardening and food education. Mrs. Williams’s K2 class has garden lessons every Wednesday afternoon. We began the year by going on a garden scavenger hunt, searching for the five things plants need to grow: sun, soil, water, air, and space. At each station students received beads representing the five elements, creating a bracelet as a reminder of what plants need.

Students bracelets that help them remember what plants need.

Students also had the opportunity to learn about the diversity of the school’s garden. Acting as investigators, Mrs. Williams’s class explored the garden and illustrated their findings in notebooks. They looked at the different colors, shapes, and varieties of vegetables, flowers, and herbs in the garden. Standing tall was purple and green curly kale, as well as dark and leafy dinosaur kale. Students were excited to find a lonely red pepper hiding under the tomato plants, and a few remaining baby eggplants holding on before the cold weather arrived. Maybe most thrilling of all, was the worm found wiggling near the beds. Students rushed over to have a chance to feel the worm in their hand before placing it safely back in the dirt.

Students feel a worm they found during a lesson in the garden. 

As the winter weather approached, we called on Ms. Patton’s third graders to help us clear out the garden beds. One week, students harvested tomatoes, baby eggplants, peppers, and carrots. When asked how it felt to wiggle the carrots out of the dirt and pull them free. One student said, “It made me feel so strong!” The harvest was finished, and it was time to prepare for the cold. The following week, students wrestled the remaining tomato vines out of the dirt and removed any weeds and dead plants that were left.

Cold frames in the garden of the Kenny help plants grow during the winter.

Beginning in January, students will continue garden lessons inside the classroom, utilizing an indoor garden system. However, plants will continue to grow outside, too! Thanks to Green City Growers, the Kenny’s garden has cold frames to support new garden life. Cold frames cover the beds and act as a greenhouse, so that plants may still thrive and grow even in the cold. Though students won’t be out in the garden over the next few months, they’ll be excited to see kale, carrots, radishes, and mache sprouting up in the spring!

This post was written by Shannon Timlin, a FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member at the Thomas J. Kenny Elementary School.