On a recent steamy afternoon, first grader Brandon Vasquez had just finished planting some radishes and was done weeding – his favorite job at the courtyard garden. He and his classmates were about to take turns picking and smelling different herbs, including mint.
“You get to do a lot of stuff,” Brandon explained. And what does he like best about gardening? “You get dirty,” he said with a grin.
His teacher Jessica Holben said her class was excited that it was their turn to work in the garden. “Learning about plants and how plants grow is part of the curriculum so it fits in really well,” she said.
The students get to taste some of the fruits of their labor and the school has sent herbs to Parkland High School for the senior citizen dinners. Fogelsville Elementary has even raffled off crops at PTO meetings.
The garden was started almost a year ago when Principal Brenda DeRenzo was looking for a way to make the overgrown courtyard more appealing. DeRenzo and a group of teachers giving their own time cleared the courtyard, under the guidance of Ebby Terp, owner of Plentiful Gardens in Macungie. Terp designed the garden and the Fogelsville PTO funded it.
“I wanted to start the garden to not only make the courtyard more useful, but I wanted to tie it into our health and wellness initiatives,” DeRenzo said. The school had just put in a walking/running track with PTO support and the garden was a good way to promote healthy eating, she said.
“The students love it,” she said. “Each grade level is a assigned a month to take care of the garden. Ebby identifies the needs of the garden each week and gives the list to the point staff person, Bill Yazujian or Traci Gabriel.”
Terp will manage the garden over the summer and DeRenzo said she hopes some families will volunteer to help.
DeRenzo said the hands on gardening ties in nicely in several areas of the curriculum, including science and nutrition.
And gardens are great because they teach cause and effect. Explained first grader Ivy Dias as she was pulling weeds from a row of lettuce: “I like lettuce because we get to eat it.”