Posted: Monday, October 26, 2015

male student planting pumpkinsGateway Elementary first grade teacher Nichole Leopard is teaching her students more than reading and writing. For several years, she’s taken her classes outside the school walls and into a six-bed vegetable garden that is tended by her students.

It may seem like they’re playing in the dirt, but these young farmers are also learning valuable lessons about working cooperatively in groups, science and nutrition, responsibility, and sharing with others.

group of students around harvested pumpkins“We started a pumpkin garden back in April by planting the seeds in our classroom,” she said. “When the plants were mature enough, we transferred them to the garden.” It didn’t take long to realize they had two types of pumpkins – Jack-o-lanterns and jumbo pumpkins.”

Campbell, a student in Ms. Leopard’s class, said, “My favorite part was watching the pumpkins grow from tiny seeds to enormous pumpkins!” Her classmate Maya added, “The pumpkins helped me learn the life cycle of the pumpkin plant.”

When it was evident they would have a lot of pumpkins, Leopard began making plans to sell them to buy books for the school library. “Students, parents and teachers donated $25 or more for the giant pumpkins. Some were so large we had to use a wheel barrow or hand trucks to take them to the cars!”

Assortment of booksThe funds have been used to purchase books including Frog and Toad Are Friends and The Teacher from the Black Lagoon. “These books will be given to the library for check out and will include a label referring to the ‘Pumpkin to Books Project,’” she said. Leopard is in the process of purchasing one hardback Mentor Text to support the curriculum at each grade level.

Leopard is especially proud of the partnership the school has built with Travelers Rest Feed and Seed. “They have given us support through recommendations for plants, materials for the soil, and seeds. Leah Beacham and the Clark family have even volunteered their time to help prep the soil,” she said.

Students are prepping the soil now for their fall garden, which will include lettuce, carrots, and greens. Some of their home-grown goodness will be delivered to the local food pantry to feed the hungry.

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