LINN — The weather has not been cooperating for Hank Peters and his Reek School students.
Late morning May 7, 59 degrees.
The sun came and went as children assembled and positioned frames for the school’s vegetable garden.
“The snow was supposed to have stopped by March, but winter stayed,” said Peters, garden project coordinator.
He said in mid-March, they started planting several different types of vegetables in pots. Pots with radishes, beets and other plants sat in rows east of the school building. “Some of these plants aren’t even going to make it.”
Kindergartners and second-graders already planted seeds outside, said Peters. The students have also planted trees on the property, which was acquired as part of the November 2013 referendum project.
However, gardening isn’t just about planting.
On May 7, students were helping to assemble the wooden frames used to make raised garden beds.
“We don’t have a shop here, so we don’t have a chance to do woodworking or use tools,” said Peters. “The kids are pretty excited about it.”
Eighth-graders Connor Hessman and Anthony Tyler seemed to slide into the role of teacher’s aides as Peters explained to students how to drill and why they put a board behind where they drilled in the frames.
“I live on a farm and my aunt, she’s remodeling her basement right now,” said Hessman. “I go out there and help a lot.”
Tyler told one of his classmates to make sure her hair isn’t hanging in front of her face while operating the drill. Otherwise, it could get caught in the bit.
Tyler said this part of the project reminded him of his old shop class in Spring Green, where he went to school previously. “It’s something I like to do a lot,” he said about woodworking.
It’s hard to pin the idea for a school garden to one source. It’s one of the school board’s goals for this year, but Peters said it started with Reek Principal Samantha Polek.
“Why a school garden? Gosh, so many reasons,” she said in an email Friday.
The staff, the board and herself believe this will further children’s environmental education.
“Students need to know where food comes from and the process of bringing food from the earth to the table,” said Polek.
She said the garden also enhances the science curriculum.
“Students in all grades do some planting of the seeds — flowers and vegetables — and they watch and document the growth of roots and steams and leaves. Now, middle school students will do their planting in the actual garden and will harvest plants.”
Peters, who is from the north shore region of the town of Linn, said he grew up gardening.
“My dad’s a huge gardener, (and) I knew, growing up, how nice it is to have fresh vegetables. You know, pulling an onion up from the ground, brushing it off and taking a bite out of it doesn’t taste too bad.”
Learning hands-on, getting dirty and fostering an appreciation for the environment aren’t the only positive aspects to the garden project.
“We’d like to get the community involved,” said Peters. “We’d like to get the kids out to try some of these (and) get something fresh in their diet… and, personally, to get children involved in this, to have some pride in this.”
Tyler and Hessman said they believe they’ll look back on their work on the Reek garden with pride.
“It’s something that will be left to remember me by,” said Tyler.