May 10, 2010


Barry students plant veggies

First-season garden hoped to be tradition

GardenJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Kai Hokanson, 7, plants chives in a hay bale Saturday in a school garden located behind the Barry Elementary School in Cortland.

Staff Reporter

At first, sixth-graders Madison Wasley and Rachel Vestal thought only a few people would help out with their idea to plant a garden at their school.
After a year of development and planning, the idea of maintaining a vegetable garden at Barry Elementary School has become a versatile project for teachers, the community and the students themselves, said Lydia Rosero, principal of the school on Raymond Avenue.
Saturday morning was spent planting the sprouted seeds into the soil. It was the first day of work on the garden, which can be found behind the school, next to the playground. More than a dozen people, including students and their parents, showed up to help.
Most of the 430 students at the school pitched in during the year to make decisions about what to grow.Classes voted on what to plant, agreeing on growing edible vegetables such as broccoli, peas, tomatoes, chives, zucchini, carrots and cucumbers.
“It’s a learning process for us to not take over but how to create this environment, that it’s the kids’ decision,” Rosero said. “The point was to develop those skills — the team-building that comes with that project.”
Wasley said she and Vestal read about a similar project in an issue of New York Times for Kids last year. They got faculty support for the garden and also made a pitch to the Board of Education.
Contributing to the decision making process and working as a team with fellow students proved the most beneficial lesson Wasley and Vestal said they took from the experience.
“It feels weird to say that me and my friend started something this big and it’s going to carry on to the future,” Vestal said. “We thought it would just be a few people making a garden back then.”
Wasley said she learned the importance of working with others during a project like this, and how quickly a small idea can catch on.
“I used to just think I could just do stuff on my own, and I thought other kids think that too,” she said.
None of the vegetables are fully grown yet, but the school already has plans of working the garden into the curriculum for nearly every subject.
There are math projects, such as sorting out proportions of how much of a vegetable would be required to feed the entire school, as well as science lessons involving the composting process.
Cortland resident Kerri Freese, who has two children enrolled at the school, said part of the fun is the nearly limitless possibilities that come from the students experimenting with the garden.
“It’s exciting that the process was core to what we wanted to do,” she said. “Even answering why something didn’t grow the way it should.”
Rosero said the goal is to harvest what has grown by June and have a garden party for the school.
Wasley and Vestal hope future students will take just as much care of the garden.
“It took a lot of hard work and just because it’s finished, that doesn’t mean it won’t take hard work in the future,” Wasley said.


To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe