In some classrooms students can take care of insects or a small animal. Some have a plant that needs tended to. And then there’s the International School of Indiana, with its garden and greenhouse.
Students at the Lower School, which is for age 3 through fifth grade, plant seeds in their classrooms and take care of the plants until they’ve grown to maturity and are ready to move outside. Students recently completed their second harvest.
Jeremiah White, an International School parent and leader of the project, said it’s a good learning opportunity for students, especially as, in his estimation, basic knowledge of gardening is being lost.
“I just think it’s important for all kids to get exposure to gardening,” White said, “if for nothing else than for kids to know pineapples don’t grow on trees.”
The International School does inquiry-based learning, a form of active learning that prioritizes hands-on experiences, as opposed to traditional learning that generally relies on teachers presenting facts to students.
Along with occasionally getting their hands dirty, students get to learn about other cultures because the school partners with Immigrant Welcome Center. Refugees help maintain the garden during the summer months when students aren’t in school, and then they get the first pick during harvest season to get the food they need.
Whatever food refugees don’t need goes to food pantries, community centers and other organizations.
Students also do a unit on immigration, which features a 2.2-mile walk between the two campuses that is supposed to simulate what refugees go through when they leave their countries.
“There’s a really important piece of working hands-on in a garden, seeing that process and then working with the community to help and serve others at the same time,” said Elizabeth Head, who leads the International School.
Many of the refugees who help in the garden come to America with some kind of gardening experience, White said, and for those who don’t, working in the school garden can help them pick up a new skill that could be useful as they adjust to life in a new country.
Dylan Rogers, a fifth grader at the International School, said he likes that he gets to see exactly where that food comes from in the garden and there aren’t any surprises.
Rogers said he also enjoyed learning about composting, something he was unfamiliar with before working in the garden.
“When I actually learned what it was, it felt pretty good that after you’re done eating food, you don’t just throw it away,” he said. “You help make a better environment.”
Rogers’ favorite part, though, was putting the fertilizer down because it reminded him of the videogame Minecraft, although he was disappointed to learn vegetables do not grow instantly in real life.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 316-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.