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Planting seeds of interest

High school and elementary students kick off garden season

Grand Rapids — Sibley Elementary School students examined tiny wildflower seeds, sorting them into categories by shape, texture, size and color on poster board. 

“A yellow one!” one student exclaimed. 

“The little black ones go here,” another instructed.

“The seeds are getting inside my shirt,” said a third, shaking out his sleeve.

From left, Aubrie Brown, Esther Angelike, Erit Cisneros, Oliver Reynaga and Bailey Reyes sort seeds

Soon students moved on to another activity, guided by Union High School students who visited Sibley to help them learn about gardening. They filled recycled yogurt cups and containers with soil and planted tomato and pepper seeds. The miniature pots will sit under grow lights for a few weeks before being planted in both schools’ gardens. 

Union High School science teacher Nicole Durson shows students a packet of tomato seeds

The seed starting event was led by Nicole Durso, a Union ninth-grade science teacher, and members of the school’s Red Hawk Garden Club.

“We are hoping to produce enough today that they can take some tomato and pepper seeds home,” Durso said. “There will be enough for their school garden and enough for ours. Our older scholars will be taking some home as well.” 

The idea behind bringing the groups together was to grow students’ interest in the school gardens, which yield produce for school families including carrots, lettuce, beets and radishes, said Sara Scott, Sibley’s Kent School Services Network coordinator. Many Sibley students go on to Union for high school, and can bring their interest and knowledge to the garden there.

Scott connected with Durso, who is known for her passion for teaching science. About  20 high school students are involved in the Union High club and Durso was interested in having them work with students at Union’s feeder schools.

“It’s going to be a good experience to help them learn about planting seeds,” said one Union sophomore about working with younger students. Because of the Garden Club, she’s learned to plant her own seeds at home and helps her grandmother with gardening.

‘We want this excitement with science and STEM to follow them. The high schoolers are helping them with their learning. It’s creating that sense of community, belonging and identity.’

— Sibley teacher Bernice Wisnieski 

The seed-starting activities align with Next Generation Science Standards, which emphasize inquiry and exploration, and have a strong language component as well, Durso said. Many Sibley students are English-language learners.

“The activity gets them interacting with each other. It gets them using and producing language to make observations and describe what they see,” Durso said, as students worked in groups to sort their seeds.

Teacher Bernice Wisnieski said her second-graders learned about seed dispersal before the event.

“We want this excitement with science and STEM to follow them,” Wisnieski said. “The high schoolers are helping them with their learning. It’s creating that sense of community, belonging and identity.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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