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Make It Fun!

Powell Kids Pulling Beets: Students eagerly pulled out plants and were surprised at what they found! (in this case, turnips)

Powell Kids Pulling Beets: Students eagerly pulled out plants and were surprised at what they found! (in this case, turnips)

As fall was quickly turning into winter, we chose a brisk day in early November to close out gardening season with all of the students at Powell Elementary. Together, along with staff from the NHL’s Washington Capitals and USDA Executive Master Gardeners, we organized a harvest and “Salad Party” so all grades could pick ingredients for and create a salad with what they’d grown. We also used this day to maintain the Habitat Garden in the form of weeding, planting natives, mulching, and rebuilding paths. We were successful in both activities, putting the Habitat Garden “to bed” in celebration of Keep America Beautiful’s National Planting Day, and throwing one heck of a salad party.

All grades at Powell had the opportunity to plant a mobile planter this fall. After weeks of watering and waiting, everyone was eager to finally taste the fruits of their labor. Some plots burst with lettuces, leafy greens, pea shoots and broccoli; while others were crowded with ample beets, turnips, and radishes; and there were some with garlic that wouldn’t be ready until spring.

Each class led by two volunteers thinned (and in some cases cleared out completely) their planter to fill a mixing bowl with its bounty. If there was a class whose planter had little to harvest, food growing in a neighboring planter was gladly shared so that everyone was able to partake in the experience. The harvest was then washed and taken back to a table for examination and preparation. The kids combined their harvests into some of the most colorful salads I’ve ever seen. They prepared their own vinaigrette with fresh herbs, added croutons to taste, and promptly sat down picnic style right there on the schoolyard pavement in circles around their volunteer leaders to enjoy (and gripe) about what they had grown, harvested, and prepared.  Needless to say, there was much more enjoying going on than griping.

Students worked with Executive Master Gardener Patrick Parnell to mulch their Habitat Garden and put it "to bed" for winter.

Students worked with Executive Master Gardener Patrick Parnell to mulch their Habitat Garden and put it "to bed" for winter.

As a lover of food and the culinary arts, I was blow away by the enthusiasm generated by leafy greens and the like. Children, who perhaps at home wouldn’t touch a salad prepared by their parents, or regularly turn their noses up at anything green or categorized as a “vegetable,” voraciously dug into their salad bowls with grateful grins and an overall excitement stemming from the new tastes, textures, and colors. Some even went back for seconds, or even asked to return to their plots to harvest more!  It was a great way to generate a love of learning in the garden, but also in the kitchen, the grocery store, or anywhere else they might come into contact with food. We look forward to continued outreach with all of the students and teachers at Powell in the coming year – helping teach the value of creating gardens, maintaining them, and benefiting from all that they produce. And of course continuing to make gardening fun!

Follow @PeoplesGarden on Twitter for updates on this school garden project. Are you growing a garden in your community? Register it with us so your efforts can be recognized along with others across the Nation.

 Ms. Raquel Maya's 2nd grade class enjoying the salad they grew themselves.

Ms. Raquel Maya's 2nd grade class enjoying the salad they grew themselves.

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