Growing a Community of Gardeners

Tracey Drum at Bow Lake Elementary requested an Excel Grant last fall because they were looking to expand their small garden by “growing a larger community of gardeners”!  It sounds like they succeeded … and more …

Tracy reported: We hoped to grow a community of gardeners with this grant project, and we did.  In fact, our community of gardeners grew larger than was originally planned.  Students from not just 5th, 6th, and 7th grades participated in the grant, but kindergarteners joined in the effort, too.

Students learned about planting and maintaining gardens.  They examined the life cycles of plants and the ecosystem of a garden, including composting, the role of bacteria and other creatures that live in and near gardens.  After planting vegetables, helping them grow, harvesting them, and then eating them, students learned about the healthy and delicious foods that come from gardens.

Our field trip gave students ideas for where our project could take us in the future and helped us to develop invaluable community partnerships with experts in the field.  Students ended the year feeling passionate about the future of the garden.  My 5th and 6th graders especially wanted younger students to appreciate it and realize how it can feed us healthy food and bring our community together.

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The grant project increased our students’ understanding of how people can make our communities better and healthier.  We were all taken by the other projects we learned about when we toured the community gardens.  Students came away with a greater appreciation of the beauty of nature.

Kubota Gardens was breathtakingly beautiful, and the students were in awe.  (It also helped that one of our teachers had her wedding there.)  Students captured some of that beauty in pictures, drawings, and in writing.  They explored the park and found different sites that amazed them.  Cody came back from the trip and looked at our garden.  He noticed that on the other side of the path, not in the garden area, we have a fenced off section with a huge hole.  There’s a drain pipe at the base of the hole.  During the rainy months, the hole fills up with water.  We have a pair of ducks who stop by.  Cody suggested turning this into a koi pond and Zen garden after seeing the beauty at Kubota.  (This might need to be another grant.)

One of the highlights of our tour was visiting the West Seattle Bee Garden.  Lauren Englund is a true earth hero.  She was such an inspiration to my students.  She started the bee garden after learning about colony collapse disorder from a documentary.  At the end of the documentary was a list of ways you could help, and one of them was to start a beehive.  She didn’t know a thing about it.  She attended some classes, wrote a grant, and now students who visit the West Seattle Bee Garden and see her demonstration know all about how important these hard-working pollinators to keeping us healthy.

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Lauren helped us teach how we all can do something small to help make our world a better place, and we don’t have to be an expert or a fully formed adult to do it.  The students learned from her and wanted to chip in to make the world better.  They saw the garden as one way to do that.  The students loved learning about bees from her and seeing the demonstration where she opened the hive.  She gave the students bee-friendly seed packets to help provide more food sources to bees and students understood how important that small act, planting flowers for bees, can be.

Growing a Community of Gardeners2I think one of my fondest memories is when my class met with the kindergarteners.  We began meeting with them about once a week.  We started by reading books about science.  Then we began going to the garden together to make observations and ask questions.  We learned about helpful bugs and harmful bugs and examined the garden for evidence of both.  They joined us at the science fair to help lead tours of the garden.  At the end of the year we harvested together.

My sixth graders who are leaving Bow Lake commented about how they wanted the kindergarteners to continue to the vision of the garden.  They look to them as the beholders of the future for our garden.

Thank you for the opportunity to expand our garden and do so much with the students at Bow Lake.  This was a highlight of our year!   ~ Tracey Drum, Bow Lake Elementary Teacher


Since 1999, the Highline Schools Foundation has been supporting innovation and excellence in Highline Public Schools. Our funding priorities focus on programs to improve academic achievement, supporting college and career readiness, grants to teachers for engaging classroom projects, the arts, athletics, and programs that keep students in school and productive. Highline is a district full of need and opportunity. The Highline Schools Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to all schools in our district—our goal is to help as many students as possible be successful!

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