Elliott families and students sprout success

There are many kids that hate eating their vegetables.  Those kids don’t go to Elliott Elementary, though. Every week during growing season, students are busy at work in the shadow of the school, tending their garden and harvesting ripe produce.  Through this experience, students are learning not only how delicious healthy eating can be, but also how to grow and maintain nutritious food in their own backyard.

Five years ago, nothing but a mess of weeds grew in the small area behind Elliott.  Thanks to a little creativity, patience, and perseverance – not to mention dedication on the part of school and program staff and volunteers – a bountiful garden now fills the space.  Community Learning Center Coordinator Kristi Chambers spearheaded the cleanup effort, preparing the area for the life it would soon support. Volunteers through The Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Program helped design and fill the garden with raised beds, a strawberry patch, a flower garden, and opportunities for learning.  A rain barrel and drip irrigation system were installed by the Lincoln Center Kiwanis club to water the life in the garden. 

The garden is used most often by Early Childhood classes, both for explicit learning and just as a place to spend time outside.  Picnics on nice days are supplemented with lessons on basic garden care and growing food. Cub Scouts at Elliott also use the garden to learn about watering, weeding, and taking care of plants.  They and their families fill the raised beds with tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, peppers, brussels sprouts, peas, beans, garlic, and the ever-popular strawberries.

All students and families benefit from the growing and learning happening in the garden.  During the summer and spring, Elliott hosts a “weeding day” where the community comes together to tend the garden as well as enjoy and take home produce that is ready to eat.  Though these weeding days are held on Tuesdays, it is not uncommon to find families working in the garden every day of the week, eager to help it grow.

Though the Elliott garden is full now full of student and community involvement, the initiation of the growing space was not without its difficulties. Teacher Chris Christensen expressed the challenges in finding a solid base of people willing to do the hard work of keeping the garden maintained and fruitful, both for growing and learning.  Though that battle is never entirely won, keeping parents and families informed about the garden has helped ensure caretakers. Christensen says, “I feel the garden has been a great way to have families become a part of the process and to help maintain the whole garden area.”

In the Garden

Raised bedsStrawberries
Fenced enclosureTomatoes
Rain barrelCucumbers
Drip Irrigation SystemBeans & Peas