COCOLALLA — The circle of elementary school gardens is complete.
Southside Elementary second-graders helped Elks Lodge members fill all the new, raised garden beds at the school with soil last Thursday. After delays on the installation due to all the rain, the kids got out there on the hottest day of the year so far. Now, every elementary school in the Lake Pend Oreille School District now has a garden, where kids can grow and eat their own vegetables.
"We’re excited," said Southside Principal Jacquelyn Johnson. "We’re starting with second grade. They'll be invested and they will have all those years to grow with the garden. It is schoolwide, though. There is five boxes, so every classroom has at least a half a box, maybe even a full box."
Michele Murphree, coordinator for the Edible Schoolyard Garden Project, said a new garden has sprouted at the elementary schools each year for seven years. Four years ago, Elks members got involved, writing grants and doing much of the work.
Becky Stone is the Elks member who wrote grants for the past two years. She said the $2,000 grant covers all the needed supplies, including building materials for the raised beds, automatic watering systems, plants and seeds. It also covers some extras, like gloves for the kids, shovels and a wheelbarrow.
The Elks project manager, John Shattuck, along with John Stone and Mike Wilkins, built the beds and dug the trench for the watering system, Stone said. Murphree said before the Elks came along, she and her husband did all that work, so she is more than thrilled they are helping out.
“They are such hard workers,” Murphree said.
The Bonner County Gardeners Association has an expert assigned to each of the schools, so Gray Henderson from BCGA was out helping install the beds as well.
Some of the Southside students are becoming experts in gardening already. Since last year, Southside teachers have been going through STEAM training to become a certified STEAM school. They asked the students to generate a list of interests in which the teachers could choose from and implement into the curriculum. Title I instructor Karin Beno is teaching her first- through sixth-graders about gardening this trimester.
Her project, "How Does Your Garden Grow?" begins with teaching the kids about every type of garden — water gardens, rock gardens, rooftop gardens, cactus gardens, butterfly gardens, rose gardens, upside down gardens, rain gardens — the list went on and on, and, of course, included raised bed gardens and vegetable gardens, which is what the kids will be growing.
The students learned what plants need to be healthy, where they get their food, photosynthesis, experimented with how water travels through the plants, planted seeds, kept charts on their plants, and more. Michael Wright from the Co-Op came in to speak with the kids about bees and pollination as well.
"He did an awesome job coming out and talking to the kids about honey bees and honey," Beno said. "We talked about how we wouldn't have vegetables, wouldn't have flowers, almonds, apples, squash, if we didn't have bees."
All of the plants the kids grew are going to be planted at the school, except a few the students will take home. Flowers are going into pots and into the flower beds along the front of the building, but a few are vegetables that the kids want to donate for the new raised beds, she said.
So what is next for Murphree, Stone and the others who participated in the school garden projects? — Find more places to put gardens.
Stone said if anyone has any other project ideas, the Elks has access to grants. The catch, she said, is for the Elks to get any grant, it must be a project members can be involved in. Those with ideas can call the Elks Lodge office at 208-263-3811 to find out if the project is eligible.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.