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04.22.2016

 
Running three
years strong, the Garden Project at George Washington Carver Montessori School
87 has some of our youngest students ready to get their hands dirty for fun and
hands-on learning.

 

And the weather finally
seems to be cooperating!

 

It’s a combined effort
by the Ivy Tech Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP) and George Washington Carver (GWC)
Montessori, which has resulted in a tasty and ever-changing learning space in
years past.

 Nardo's Garden

The Garden
Project is linked to an international network through the Edible Schoolyard Project (ESYP), an organization that strives to share the benefits of
gardening with K–12 schools. Its focus is on building student knowledge in
nutrition and the tools needed to grow sustainable food.

 

Students in
Grades 1–2 grow and tend vegetables such as green beans, squash, lettuce and
zucchini, as well as varying herbs and flowers. Mature veggies are placed at
the school’s front desk for families, students and staff to enjoy.

 

“When I
originally thought about bringing a garden [to GWC Montessori], I really had NO
idea where to start,” said Kristin Hancock, a teacher at GWC. “It since has
transformed into a place of so many teachable moments about insects and their
function in a garden, life cycles and the difference between city and rural
areas.”

 

Hancock
credits the program’s success to Jonathan Arbuckle, the associate director of
Curriculum and Instruction in the Ivy Tech Associate Accelerated Program.

 

“We couldn’t
have done this without Jonathan and his Ivy Tech students. They are absolutely
the best!” said Hancock.

 

During the
fall of 2013, Arbuckle decided to start a community garden as part of a civic
engagement component in the ASAP degree program at Ivy Tech. While searching
for land plots, his students stumbled upon an empty space near GWC Montessori
School 87. After discussion with GWC Principal Mark Nardo, the pair decided to
partner in the effort, sparking a new and rewarding relationship between the
schools.

 

“I think the
combination of being outside, getting a little dirty, and engaging socially
with the next generation fills some type of void my students didn’t know they
had,” said Arbuckle.

 

The GWC
Montessori garden space allows for hands-on learning experience for our
elementary students, who live in an area where fresh food sources are lacking.

 

“Most of these
city kids had never dug holes in the dirt, pulled weeds or watered and watched
seeds sprout,” said Hancock. “I could go on and on about how a few boxes of
dirt and seeds have impacted my children in ways I never even had imagined.”

 

“Experiences in
the garden are very impactful [for both Ivy Tech and School 87] students in a
number of ways,” said Arbuckle. “Students are learning where food comes from,
[they all work] together to plant seeds, or harvest a crop of carrots, and they
also have the opportunity to practice and hone their communication and
leadership skills. Students often come away from the experience with enhanced
skills that can be applied to their coursework and life in general.”

 

During the wrap-up project
last year, students in Grades 1–2 talked about what they learned from the
garden.

 

“I learned that gardens have both fruits and vegetables. We
made some plants grow, like the tomatoes. It takes a really long time,” said
Hannah. “My favorite thing is digging and putting the seeds in the ground.”

 

“I learned that roots are under the soil. The roots get the
plants some water and that makes the plants grow and grow and grow,” said
Alexis. “When you grow a seed, they start as little plants and then they get so
so big.”

 

“Gardens are fun to grow. We got to plant a lot of things
like cucumbers. We like to eat a lot of stuff from the garden.  I like salad,” said Fernando. “I already
liked it before the garden, but I didn’t like cucumbers until the garden kind.”

 

As the project
gets into full swing this year, students from both schools will gather once a
month to tend the garden and plan future projects. The college students serve
as mentors to their younger colleagues.

 

“One of the
most positive things about our partnership [with Ivy Tech] is that these
college students are usually the first in their family to attend college and
most of them come from similar circumstances as my children,” said Hancock. “It
is wonderful for my students to see what they, too, can achieve if they work
hard in school.”

 

During the summer
months, while students and teachers are on break, the ASAP volunteers tend the
garden with standard upkeep. Harvesting the produce is a major component in the
process. Student volunteers from Ivy Tech donate portions of the harvest to the
Mid-North Food Pantry. Last summer, nearly 40 pounds of produce were donated to the pantry
and the group hopes to double their efforts this year.

 

“I could tell it was a very meaningful
experience for my students,” said Arbuckle. “Going to the pantry helped
students better understand the daily struggles people have with food insecurity
around Indianapolis. Utilizing the pantry helped my students connect with the
community around them, while helping to improve the lives of others through
service and giving.”

 

The teamwork
cultivated between ASAP and the Garden Project will boost student communication
and expand the diversity of their environment. We’re looking forward to
watching this program flourish in the months ahead.