LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – Students at Lincoln Northeast High School come together through gardening. Some of them are new to the United States and they were inspired to do so after reading a book about unity.
To the east of Lincoln Northeast High School are four garden beds. The goal is to provide a sense of unity to students from other countries and help an area of Lincoln considered a food wasteland.
Dozens of students spent Wednesday planting, watering and raking. Students at English Language Learners, or ELL, came up with the idea last year after reading Seedfolks, a short story by Paul Fleischmann. It’s a book about immigrants from different countries who have transformed a vacant lot into a community garden.
For ELL students, English is not their primary language. Vinus Sarwari has been in Nebraska for almost 6 years, but she’s from Afghanistan. Adriana Juarez came from El Salvador two years ago during the pandemic.
“I’m very proud of my teachers for allowing us to do this,” said Lincoln Northeast 9th grader Vinus Sarwari. “I met new people and I feel more joy coming to school.”
“Each of us comes from a different country and we have different cultures,” said Lincoln Northeast 9th grader Adriana Juarez. “My grandfathers were farmers.”
The project includes two flower gardens and two for produce and they have signs posted on the front saying “Welcome” in different languages. One of the major crops grown should come as no surprise.
“Nebraska-style sweetcorn,” said Lincoln Northeast 9th grader Kiegon Meyers. “It will be the gold standard in our garden.”
Members of the school’s garden club help alongside ELL students. Additionally, biology students benefit from this hands-on learning experience. The garden club will help tend the plants this summer. The plan is to have a farmers market for students and those from the surrounding neighborhood to benefit from locally grown produce.
The Civic Nebraska Community Learning Center in the northeast teamed up with students to bring a similar project to the school to benefit the community. ELL students designed the beds in their classrooms, and planned and designed what will be in each bed. In addition to the neighborhood and community building aspects of the garden, students examine how plants and ecosystems work together and gain insight into pollination, composting, and germination.
Several community partners have joined in the effort, including a University of Nebraska Northeast concentration program that prepares students in the areas of food, energy, water, and societal systems. . The Kiwanis of northeast Lincoln also donated significant labor and resources for the construction of the corrugated iron beds.
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