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Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) school garden project

  • Subject: [cg] Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) school garden project
  • From: Don Boekelheide <dboekelheide@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2004 18:08:37 -0700 (PDT)

Elementary and middle-school kids blossom while
sharing a garden and an education

Jodi Torpey 
Special to The Denver Post
Monday, September 27, 2004 -

Neatly tucked between two schools in a north Denver
neighborhood is a crescent-shaped garden where some
interesting things grow: flowers, vegetables and
children. Students from Cole Middle School and
Mitchell Elementary School are using this community
growing patch to learn important things - like where
broccoli comes from.

The Mitchell garden is one of 20 school gardens built
by the nonprofit organization with the fitting name of
DUG, more formally known as Denver Urban Gardens.
Since 1985, DUG has helped turn the soil of unused
space into vibrant plots of earth. With the support of
Denver Public Schools, DUG is attempting to plant the
seeds of environmental stewardship throughout the
metro area.

"It takes a pioneering group to initiate and commit to
a school garden," said Michael Buchenau, DUG
co-executive director. "It's a cooperative effort
between the principal, teachers, parents and community
volunteers."

During the past 10 years, there has been a resurgence
in using school gardens to teach subjects such as
math, science, weather and the language arts. The
Mitchell program blends indoor classroom study with
time spent outside. Students learn about healthy
eating, seed planting, biology and composting. Garden
time provides the physical activity of planting,
weeding, turning compost and other garden chores. The
students plant, grow and harvest an assortment of
vegetables that include Chinese cabbage and all the
ingredients needed to make salsa.

"What's unique about this program, is that it pairs
the two schools as an indoor and outdoor program,"
said DUG's Judy Elliott. "The mentor component paired
seventh-grade students from Cole, some with behavioral
problems or learning disabilities, with Mitchell
second-graders. The seventh-graders became leaders and
nurturers."

"Kids find success in a different way here," Buchenau
added. "It contributes to their future learning."

Steve Replogle, a fourth- grade social studies teacher
at Bromwell Elementary School, has used his school's
garden to reinforce the Colorado history curriculum.
"I felt like we had read about people settling the
frontier, but the kids gained a greater appreciation
of it after working outside in the hot sun."

Max Segal, 10, was among the kids who toiled in the
garden last year. "I learned a lot about gardening
skills and what it would've been like for farmers
every day," he said.

Cole Middle School student Idaisha Hall weeds an area
near the garden of Mitchell Elementary.

The benefits of school gardens were first discovered
in the 1890s. Teachers used gardens as a tool to help
students study nature, learn good work habits and
develop social skills.

Each year the American Horticultural Society in
Alexandria, Va., sponsors a National Children and
Youth Garden Symposium. The 2004 symposium recently
was in Ithaca, N.Y., and it attracted more than 200
teachers and children's garden directors from the
U.S., Canada and Australia.

One project of the horticultural society, the Growing
Connection, is a collaboration with the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The
program is designed to teach children about the
science of growing plants for food. Part of this
educational program provides the opportunity for
students to experiment with seeds that have gone into
space in a National Aeronautics and Space
Administration science balloon.

In addition to helping children become more
environmentally aware, some gardens help connect
students from different cultures. The Global
Children's Garden in Evergreen is one such example.

"This started in 1999 as a dream to connect kids to
the natural world instead of being passive observers,"
said Allan Werthan, founder and director. "The
exciting part of the project is kids helping kids
internationally to build greenhouses and to have a
cultural exchange of experiences and resources."

Children are involved in every aspect of the
greenhouse garden. They plant, maintain and harvest
flowers, herbs and vegetables. "Right now it looks
like a tropical jungle in there," Werthan said,
beaming.

Werthan attended the horticultural group's Children
and Youth Garden Symposium in July. "One phrase I
heard many times at the symposium was, 'A garden in
every school.' It is definitely a wave of the future,
with so many schools and organizations now
implementing school gardens," he said.

"One foundation of the Global Children's Gardens is
that the beneficiary of a greenhouse will challenge
itself to help another group of kids to build a
greenhouse," Werthan said. "It gives kids an
opportunity to do something real in their world."

The current project is helping the Southern Ute
Academy in Ignacio build its own school greenhouse.
Students from the Evergreen Montessori School are
working with the Global Children's Gardens to support
the fundraising for this greenhouse effort.

###


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