Lincoln Students Create School Garden Designs

Lincoln Students Create School Garden Designs
Posted on 04/29/2018
Garden Presentations

Enthusiasm for the locally grown movement has been “growing” for the last several years, and Spencer Schools is now grabbing hold of the concept.  Thanks to a grant received from CF Industries, Spencer Community School District Nurse, Cammy Hinkeldey, can move her passion to help families live healthier forward, by starting a school garden at Lincoln Elementary School. 

“The concept of incorporating a garden at the schools has been on my radar for several years.  As the district nurse, I am always looking at ways to incorporate healthy habits into the students’ daily routine.  When I started as the Lincoln nurse last year, I presented the idea to the teachers, and they were just as excited and passionate about the concept as I was.  That made it very easy to bring the idea to reality,” shared Hinkeldey.

Hinkeldey worked with the teachers on the best way to incorporate the garden into the curriculum, and to get the process started, she met with Lincoln School fifth-graders to lay some groundwork, discussing their budget and aspects of gardening to consider.  The students were then tasked with the design phase, spending several weeks, when time allowed, to conduct research about gardens, and ultimately put their designs into a presentation to be shared with school staff and experienced gardeners from throughout the community.  According to fifth-grade teacher, Alisha Bernardy, the students learned much more than she could have imagined, adding “They’ve done a lot of math, with figuring out the total prices, measuring and finding the area, perimeter and length.”

With six fifth-grade classes, and several small groups within each class, there were roughly 30 projects total.  One group, including Grant, Broedy, Isaac and Riley, spoke a little about their process.  “We’ve been working on the garden project which is what we are going to do for the Lincoln Elementary School garden, and we are planning to put it east of the blacktop and south of the parking lot.  We decided to get garden tools, and we talked about weather conditions, water, and soil.  We explained how we are going to put everything together so that we can make our garden safe from animals, and basically, we decided to put the garden in our location because of the size and there aren’t many trees around.  That way, the plants will get natural rain and lots of sun,” explained Broedy.  Grant added that they were given a budget of $1000, and their cost would be between $300 and $800.  They recommended keeping the remaining money to be used in the future for supply needs or saving toward additional items, such as a greenhouse or more permanent fencing. 

Lincoln Elementary Principal, Cindy DeVlaeminck offered her excitement saying, “This Project Based Learning (PBL) project goes along with our Next Generation Science Standards, and the students are extremely excited to do their presentations for everybody!”  A large group of school staff, including representatives from the grounds department, and community members, with expertise in gardening, enjoyed the opportunity to hear the students share their plans. 

Two community volunteers and long-time gardeners, George and Karolyn Kruger, thought the experience was great.  “I think talking to each other, planning and the group work was important.  They are excited, and I think that is fantastic,” said George.  Karolyn added that she thought it was a great experience because many students don’t have exposure to gardens, but they had pretty realistic ideas and were very well organized.  George ended by saying, “They have clearly learned a lot through the process.”

According to Mrs. Bernardy, “The neatest part was for the students to learn how to work together as a team because they did not all agree.  They had to make compromises, and some of them really had to step up and be the leader in the group to help keep the others on task.”  She also highlighted that students were able to contribute by drawing on their strengths.  “The teamwork and cooperation, struggling through it and being able to make the compromises, has been one of the most exciting things.” 

The ultimate goal for the garden is to have all students participate in the hands-on experience.  “We don't want to limit it,” exclaimed Hinkeldey!   One idea is to have the fourth-graders plant in the spring and harvest as fifth-graders in the fall.  While the school is taking small steps for now, Hinkeldey encouraged the students to think big and include future goals in their plans, saying, “I envision it will evolve over the next several years as teachers incorporate the gardens more and more into the curriculum.  We would love to someday incorporate the food produced into student lunches and are keeping an open mind to all ideas!”

The presentations were a resounding success.  “I was very proud of the students and the time and effort they put into their projects.  I would also like to offer a huge thank you to the community volunteers, school staff and students for making this happen,” said Hinkeldey.  Now that the presentations are complete, key decision makers will come together to discuss the ideas.  The final product won't be a result of only one presentation, but a combination of several projects, and Hinkeldey added, “We would love to be able to plant this spring, but we are of course at the mercy of Mother Nature!”