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Garden education program teaches ‘everything from seed to plate’

Harvest leads to healthy eating 

Second-graders Mutoni Nsanabandi and Charlotte Hamann eat sunshine salad from their school garden

Wyoming — It was harvest day at the Oriole Park Elementary school garden, and second-grader Lincoln Woreniecki had pizza toppings on his mind.

“Mushrooms are my favorite food. I like it on my pizza and my salad,” he said.

Whether Lincoln’s mushrooms came from the school garden or not wasn’t as important as the fact that he was thinking about produce and the many ways to eat it. He and his classmates headed outside to pick, weigh and taste the garden’s bounty, smelling thyme, watching bees and identifying flowers along the way.

Students began their lesson with a refresher course on what goes into making a garden grow, led by Holly Smith, co-lead teacher for HOPE Gardens. The Wyoming-based nonprofit focuses on empowering children, families and the community to grow their own food (HOPE stands for Help Other People Eat).

With a big eggplant in her bin, Mutoni Nsanabandi grins big
With a big eggplant in her bin, Mutoni Nsanabandi grins big

The organization is working with Wyoming, Godwin and Godfrey-Lee Public Schools on garden education, “everything from seed to plate,” said Julie Brunson, executive director. Lessons include soil science, composting, vermiculture pollination, and seed-saving and seed-sharing. Students also get cross-curricular lessons, such as how much produce costs in the supermarket and how to determine that by weight. 

“Our focus is really growing with Wyoming,” Brunson said. “What could it look like if all children, early childhood to adulthood, had the opportunity to learn where their food comes from?” 

Oriole Park’s garden, planted by students and HOPE Gardens representatives last spring, now teems with beans, squash, spinach, kale, corn, eggplant and many other vegetables, including the popular Mexican sour gherkin, also known as a cucamelon.

 “Good sun and water, and good soil. That’s healthy. And bugs,” said Lincoln.

HOPE Gardens, founded in 2015, has worked with schools in the city of Wyoming as part of its after-school and summer programming. They now offer a once-a-month class as part of the Wyoming Public Schools elementary STEAM classes. Food from school gardens go home with 

STEAM teacher Jolanda Nederveld said the lessons tie in with science, math and real-life skills they can use throughout their lives.
“I love how it gets the kids knowing more about gardening and working together toward a common goal,” Nederveld said. “I love that it gets them outside and not just in the classrooms. They enjoy it; they look forward to it, and it’s really fun to watch them trying new foods. Every time, it’s their favorite snack.”

Second-grader Charlotte Hamann was excited about what she picked.

‘Good sun and water, and good soil. That’s healthy. And bugs.’

— Second-grader Lincoln Woreniecki

“I’m going to take this corn home and say, ‘Mom, I grew this and we can have it for dinner!’”

Read more from Wyoming: 
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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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