Monday, May 13, 2013

A Spring to Remember

Some of Lettuce Link's interns and volunteers will be guest blogging for us over the next few months. Today, we welcome the words of Rachel Sofferin, a children's garden and nutrition education volunteer.

Spring seems to have been beckoned to Seattle early this year, and when Mr. Hunt’s fourth and fifth grade students from neighboring Concord International Elementary filed into to Lettuce Link’s Children’s Garden at Marra Farm last month for their first day of hands on learning, the day seemed ripe for it.

Still a little cool, breezy, and slightly overcast in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood, the rain held off long enough to allow for students to leave their rain jackets behind. Excited faces gathered in opening circle on a grassy, dandelion filled patch of earth to meet their garden teachers: Amelia, Glenn, Michelle, Rachel, and Sue.

Before their visit to the farm, the students had been divided into gardening groups and came up with questions for the experiments that they would be conducting in the garden. The group of four that I am leading, The Incredible Crew, decided to run their experiment on the effects of darkness on plant growth.

To start we had to prepare the garden bed: weeding, turning the soil, adding compost, and - “Eww! Look! There’s a worm!” - discovering the slimy and squiggly worms that make the soil fertile. Students masterfully shoveled compost and maneuvered wheelbarrows though the garden and used child-sized pitchforks to turn the soil.

After the beds were prepared it was time to plant, accompanied by ongoing chatter about worms and other critters in the soil. Rows of starts and seeds - bok choy, beets, onions, and peas - were pushed into the soil by small hands wearing oversized gardening gloves.

In neighboring garden beds, other planted their experiments as well: seeds cut in half, seeds watered excessively, planted in sand, water or in close proximity, and even some watered with lemonade. We planted each bed with an experimental and a control group for determining the effects of the experimental conditions on plant growth.

After what seemed like a quick minute, the 45-minute class was over and it was time to round up the students for their return to school.

I think I might be more excited about the learning at Marra Farm than the students. The hands-on learning that the Lettuce Link program of Solid Ground offers at the farm is fantastic. Kids are able to apply what they are learning in other areas of science, social studies, and history. They run garden experiments using all of the tools of a scientist, learn about nutrition and cooking, and even the history of the area and the native Duwamish people.

These kinds of applied learning experiences are the ones that stay with a student long into adulthood. This is going to be a spring to remember!

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