June 11, 2008
Homer students taking up gardening
Children in grades three through six are growing flowers, vegetables at intermediate school
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Olivia Porter attaches a fence to a pole that vegetables will climb in the Homer Intermediate School garden Tuesday.
HOMER — In between pulling out weeds Tuesday afternoon, fourth-grader Molly Ulrich explained the importance of the task.
“If plants don’t have a lot of room they won’t really grow,” she said.
For the first time, Homer Intermediate School has a garden that teachers can use to complement their lessons on plants, food and other areas of study.
The garden, which has taken shape in the school’s courtyard over the last month, is also serving as an inspiration for a local group that would like to start a larger community garden in the village this year or next year.
Homer Intermediate School Principal Stephanie Beeman said a group of teachers approached her this spring about setting up a garden. One of those teachers was Jane O’Shea, who teaches fourth grade.
“It’s a nice tie-in to what they’re learning in the classroom, and kids like to be out in the dirt,” O’Shea said Tuesday afternoon, as some of her students planted asters, a type of flower.
O’Shea pointed to a garden plot her students recently planted with different flowers of different heights.
The flowers were planted in the shape of New York state, and the tallest flowers represent mountainous regions of the state, while the shortest flowers represent the flattest regions of the state.
“This is New York City where a skyscraper is coming up,” she said, pointing to a tall flower.
More than 10 different teachers are using the garden, which is divided up into different plots, for their lessons.
Students helped wheelbarrow dirt and mulch into the courtyard area, and spread it out. They also did the planting, and regularly water and check on the plants and vegetables, which include lettuce, onions and peas.
Students in teacher Leesa Ferris’ fourth-grade class recently had a salad party in which students ate salads containing the lettuce they had grown.
They were still enjoying the lettuce Tuesday afternoon.
“This lettuce is good,” Sarah Redenback said to fellow fourth-grader Kennedy George, after picking it off a plant. “Do you want some?”
George, whose family has a 100-by-100-foot garden at its Groton home, said she believes it is important to learn how to garden at a young age.
“When we’re older we might want to do it, and we’ll have the experience.” Kennedy said.
Ferris said one of the first things the different classes did was measure the amount of sunlight that hit each part of the courtyard to determine which plants should be planted where.
She said in addition to learning about plants, composting and conservation, students are learning about community service through the garden project.
“They’ve been taking flowers to different people in the community,” Ferris said.
Hopefully the project will spill into the Homer community even more, Homer resident Victor Siegle said.
Siegle said he and about a dozen other village residents would like to start a bigger community garden somewhere in the village as soon as they can.
They are looking for a plot of land they can grow the garden on.
“Homer has to make a transition to the future, with more expensive fossil fuels,” Siegle said. “We’re going to have to become more self-reliant in many ways, and a community garden could symbolize that self-reliance.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Siegle spoke about the upcoming fuel shortage to the Cortland Rotary Club. To deal with the problem, people need to conserve energy, search for practical alternative energy sources and invest in certain energy companies, he said.
Also, the world needs to control the growing population, he said.
Those interested in brainstorming about a community garden can call Siegle at (607) 749-4363.
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