Elm Street fifth-graders learn to harvest at Painesville community garden

Sep. 9—Nearly four months after planting seedlings at the Red Raider Gardens at Elm, returning fifth-grade students at neighboring Elm Street Elementary School recently witnessed the end results.

The Lake County Master Gardener Volunteers returned to the Painesville City school to help students harvest their plants on Sept. 7. The volunteers and then-fourth-grade students planted the seedlings on May 16, while the volunteers tended to the plants over the summer.

"We're very excited with how it turned out," said volunteer Becky Foltz. "Everything's good. The garden did fantastic over the summer. Just fantastic."

"It was just kind of amazing to see the old, scraggly seedlings — and some of them were little scraggly seedlings — and just how they flourished," she added.

Teacher Clorissia Savel said that the students were excited about harvesting plants such as carrots and pumpkins, while they also discussed meals that they could make with plants like tomatoes and onions.

"They're making that real-life connection, which is cool," she said.

Savel added that the plants will be used in the school's cafeteria.

"All of the students at Elm will be able to enjoy the vegetables that we grew," she said.

Over the past year, the Master Gardener volunteers visited Elm Street multiple times to teach students about gardening.

"They learned about the parts of the plant," Foltz said. "They actually physically planted the seeds, so they learned what a seed needs to grow into a plant — photosynthesis, soil, light, water. They learned how to properly plant."

"They learned a little bit about square foot gardening," she added. "And now, they're learning how to harvest these plants."

Savel believes that students also had an opportunity to learn by waiting for the plants to grow.

"It's important for them to see that good things take time and their hard work does pay off," she said. "So, it's something that they can pull from in the future, to know that if they don't get that immediate gratification, that it's just delayed, and that positive things will take time and they'll come later."

Foltz said that the harvest marks the end of the current program, though she added that the volunteers "will be discussing with the school later in the winter to start something up again next spring with fourth grade."

The students used the Master Gardeners' community garden plot, Foltz added.

"We were just looking for something to do with the plot that could educate the public, and then the idea came, because we're right next to a school, would that fit into anybody's curriculum?" she said. "We just thought that that would be a good use of the plot, to teach the kids."

Savel said in May that the students planted peppers, pumpkins, zucchini, sunflowers, marigolds, carrots, radishes, kale, cilantro, basil and beets.

"This program is being offered to give students life skills outside the classroom," she said at the time. "Something we hope students learn from this is being responsible for and taking care of living things. Gardening takes patience and care.

"We hope this also encourages students to take this skill to their families and be something families can do together."