Curiosity takes root as Durham students grow garden

Posted November 19, 2009 6:47 a.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2009 7:33 a.m. EST

— Ask children where food comes from, and some might say “the grocery store.” George Watts Montessori Magnet School in Durham is working to change that perception.

Parents and students planted an edible garden that's also a school-wide project. Classes rotate maintenance duty every week and take care of the growing food, such as broccoli, cabbage, green onions, radishes, lettuce and herbs.

The garden idea grew from parent Alice Bumgarner who was inspired by a book, "Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea" by Alice Waters, which is about an edible schoolyard that transformed a school.

“(The students learn) here’s how we grow food, here’s how you harvest food, and we’re going to eat that food,” Bumgarner said.

Teachers weave in science concepts, such as studying plant parts and soil moisture. In the classroom, students paint garden markers in art class.

“They look out at the edible garden and say, ‘Why are these plants being eaten?’ or ‘Why is the soil very dry?’” said teacher Lauren Vejvoda who teaches first-, second- and third-graders.

This week, students will get to harvest the fruits of their labor. They will use the lettuce to make a salad, the radishes to make a radish salsa and herbs from the herb garden to make a salad dressing.

“There’s pride and there’s great care,” Bumgarner said.

George Watts Montessori plans to expand its garden to increase the number of crops. Seeds and supplies for the garden were made possible by corporate and individual donations, school leaders said. Garden experts and parent volunteers helped with the design and crop selections.