Cool Schools: St. Thomas School builds community garden

Cool Schools: St. Thomas School builds community garden

ELKHART, Ind. -- St. Thomas School in Elkhart is growing the minds of its students, while teaching them how to grow their own food.  

The students there are practicing hands-on learning through a new community garden.

"It was an under-utilized space i think that we had," said Principal Chris Adamo.

An unused courtyard has been transformed into a garden budding with laughter.

The idea was executed beyond expectation, according to Adamo. He said, it was the director of lunch services, Immacolata Varacalli, who originally thought of a use for the courtyard.

She says after walking through the empty space every day she thought, what about a school garden?

"After researching, the school garden benefits the school so much, said Varacalli. “The children learn from beginning to end about fresh produce and how beneficial it is for us."

But they are also learning about teamwork. Students say, it was a bonding experience.

"We all had to like work hard, communicate and do everything that was needed to be done," said Ellie Ewing, an 8th grade student at the school.

Every grade was involved in the garden in some way, whether helping build, grow, plant, or making stepping stones and signs.

"I had some of the 8th graders, 3rd graders and 1st graders give me their thumb prints so that we turn those into flowers and bugs to decorate,” said Art Teacher Ann Lebryk. “So a lot of the kids had a hand in the painting of the signs."

And soon the students will be able to see the fruits of their labors.

"We hope to use our produce that we are growing here in our lunch program,” said Varacalli. “Next year we'll be doing two days on-site cooking. In the future we hope to cook permanently on site."

The school hopes this hands-on learning will help the students’ achievements and teach them more about nutrition.

Principal Adamo says he's hoping the students can utilize the area every day.

A reading corner in the garden is something teachers are already taking advantage of.

"That's why I got into education, to help kids make connections with their world, and this is just a beautiful example of how they can do that," said Adamo.

The first plants were planted in the garden Thursday.

The school says, it was just the first step of many.

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