On Friday, two high school students led a gardening lesson with fifth graders from Burlington Elementary, helping them create a bracelet using green pipe cleaners and colorful beads representing what the plants need to push.
In addition to the basics of air, water and soil, they said, plants need specific nutrients to thrive.
“You know how to eat broccoli and all the green stuff,” asked Sydney Studholme, a senior in St. Vrain Valley’s Agriscience program. “Nitrogen is what helps it turn green.”
Burlington, Longmont is one of 10 preschool, elementary, and middle schools receiving an $11,700 USDA Farm to School subgrant to support student-led, student-grown agriculture for school cafeterias .
Money from the six-month grant is helping the district expand a previous Colorado Student Wellness Grant that included money to start wellness teams at 30 schools. Teams from some of these schools then created educational gardens.
Goals of the new grant include building on ongoing nutrition education, adding farm-to-school training, creating gardening mentorships, and establishing community-led food supply chains. students. The district plans to continue the program after the grant ends.
Through the grant, Nutrition Services works with the Agriscience program, Future Farmers of America, school wellness programs and school cafeterias.
The plan is for participating schools to grow produce and then use what they grow in their cafeterias for recipe development and taste testing. A new menu item is planned in each school depending on their work. Greenhouses in Burlington and the Career Elevation and Technology Center will allow for year-round harvesting.
“We hope that the more connectedness students have with food, the more new foods they will try,” school wellness coordinator Theresa Spiers wrote in an email. “We can’t wait to see what healthy, fresh and hyperlocal menu items the students will create.”
For the mentorship play, approximately 125 Agriscience and Future Farmers of America high school students participate, providing school gardening education at participating schools.
Studholme said she likes the idea of volunteering with younger students, noting that many school gardens remain empty due to gardening challenges.
“It puts kids in charge of caring for a plant,” she said. “It’s always so much fun to play with dirt. It’s very grounded for energetic kids.
In Burlington, librarian and STEM teacher Jennifer Howie manages the greenhouse, built in the summer of 2020. She hosted a “salad day” harvest for fifth graders last year and, summer last, watered the plants twice a day to maintain the greenhouse garden. .
This semester, students planted tomato and grass seeds with the help of high school students. Later this spring, Howie plans to work with the student council on a plant sale to raise funds, modeled after the Career Elevation and Technology Center’s annual greenhouse plant sale.
“It’s really about the students being able to watch their plants grow,” she said. “Since this is a greenhouse, we can evaluate the environment in the greenhouse compared to the environment outside. If a watermelon plant does not produce fruit, it is because there are no pollinators.
Several Burlington fifth-grade students make a short film about the greenhouse and its origins. They said two mothers came up with an idea, got the manager’s approval and collected donations.
“It was built almost entirely by volunteers,” said Clarissa Roman, a fifth-grade student.
Although establishing the greenhouse was not without its challenges – a basin that helps control the temperature was contaminated with sawdust and had to be rebuilt – she described it as beautiful, especially now that planting has started.
“Not all the plants are dead now,” she said. “It could inspire people to grow healthy plants at home.”
Classmate Roslyn Hall added that there is space next to the greenhouse for a future outdoor garden.
“Our greenhouse is like an outdoor classroom,” she said. “A greenhouse is unique to our school. It’s really quite impressive.