A line of green, fluffy leaves is popping up behind a row labeled “carrots” at Orem Elementary School. For three Tuesdays now, students have huddled in to slide on small pairs of gardening gloves, grab cups of water for their self-assigned plots and gone to work.
Not only do the students continue to come to the school’s new gardening club, but they’re showing up early.
“I think that in itself says something, because they joined the weeding club, really,” said Nanette Jensen, a sixth grade teacher at Orem Elementary School.
The club came about from a $3,000 grant from Fuel Up to Play 60, which is sponsored by the NFL and the National Dairy Council. As part of the grant, the school created a gaga pit on the playground to promote physical activity and began the garden to encourage nutrition.
Jensen said many of the students didn’t even know what seeds looked like in the beginning.
“I just think it’s good for them to see where food comes from,” she said.
Teachers planted the seeds in May on the school’s west side. The garden club is tending the garden through the summer, and Jensen is hopeful they’ll have produce in August. The students who helped with the garden will be able to take food home, and Nelson plans to do taste testing at the school.
The students are growing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, cucumbers and pumpkins, along with basil, rosemary and thyme.
The students meet every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. to weed and tend the garden before hearing a reading from a book about gardening or plants and doing a physical activity.
Tuesday, water seeped into the ground amidst the sound of steady, muted thunking as bean bags hit the ground while the students played tennis.
Those activities are 7-year-old Nixon Sutton’s favorite part of the club. Nixon, who will be entering second grade in the fall, has helped pick ripe tomatoes from his grandmother’s garden.
He already has his eyes on what he wants from the school’s plots.
“I do really like spaghetti squash,” Nixon said. “I like the taste. It tastes good.”
Ten-year-old Haylee Brittain, an upcoming fifth grader, remembers growing cabbage in the third grade. She’s excited to see the produce.
“I’ve never seen a pumpkin grow before,” she said.
Jensen thought the club would consist only of her and a few students. It reached about 20 students Tuesday, with more coming every week. The students range in age from 4 years old to seventh graders.
“It kind of renewed my faith in teaching,” Jensen said.
She said she’s received community support for the club, including being able to rent a rototiller from Home Depot for free.
She hopes to continue the club next summer, but is working on how to fund it. Jensen said her brother, a horticulturist, may be able to help them harvest seeds from this year’s harvest to use next summer.