The School Gardens crew met on the grounds of Robert Gray Elementary School this week with partners from the Washington Department of Agriculture, Pacific Education Institute and WSU.

Aberdeen School District aims to build garden at every school this summer

Students and employees of the Aberdeen School District are working with partners from the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Pacific Education Institute and Washington State University to build a garden at every school this summer.

The district said in its newsletter the project aims to incorporate garden science into the school curriculum, and student-grown produce into the school lunch program. And it has been well received by WSU’s Master Gardener program, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, and the Pacific Education Institute (PEI).

The idea was hatched during discussions this past spring about student health and wellness after a year of social distancing and grab-and-go, prepackaged lunches, Superintendent Alicia Henderson explained.

In addition to identifying learning gaps that opened during the pandemic, “We know the pandemic has been hard on our students in many ways,” she said.

“We were talking about how can we get them outside, doing something healthy and active. One thing led to another. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who have come forward and want to participate. Every time we meet, it seems more people attend.”

A team of students is working with the Maintenance Department this summer to build the gardens. A team of teachers will soon be working to align the current STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum at every grade level.

Superintendent Henderson noted that the idea of gardening at school isn’t entirely new to the district as the high school has a highly regarded horticulture program under science teacher Mike Machowek.

“The intent is for it to be seamless,” she said. “We want to incorporate the gardens into what we are already doing with instruction.”

The state Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-School Program will help the district explore ways to bring locally grown food into the School Lunch program.

“We spend a lot of money on food for our students,” Henderson said. “To the extent that we can, we would like to purchase from local or regional farms.

“We are very excited for the return to a regular schedule this fall and the opportunity to fully focus on the education and health of our students,” she concluded.