Volunteers keep the garden going
Centre Elementary School fourth-graders were enthusiastic Friday as they poured out of the building on their first visit this spring to the school garden.
They knelt beside the newly created raised beds and excitedly ran their fingers through the living soil in anticipation of adding plants and watching them grow.
The opportunity for CES students to experience gardening was made possible this year because senior Tom Oborny chose to donate his time to teach them.
Teacher Cindy Riedel is in charge of the garden. She coordinates schedules, buys plants, and formulates lessons. But her teaching schedule prevented her from working with the students.
“When I found out last fall that Mrs. Riedel would not have the time to do the garden project, I decided I could do it, and I volunteered,” Tom said.
He doesn’t get academic credit or receive any monetary reward for doing it. During the spring season, he meets with kindergarteners through sixth-graders every week, teaching them about planting and caring for the garden.
The season is just getting started. The garden contained a few flower plants Friday, but students would be putting in tomato plants, onions, potatoes, and beans. Some of the produce will be used in school lunches as it becomes available.
Others have stepped up to improve the garden, which was originally plotted in September 2009 under the direction of Kirk Cusick from Whispering Cottonwood Farm Educational Center at Salina. Cusick was working from a federal grant. The program was turned back to the school in subsequent years.
During spring break, Deb Casey, the school nurse, and her husband, Larry, built six cedar wood frames for raised beds for the garden. They brought in soil from their farm and got additional soil from the farms of Duane Carlson and Bob Bina.
Casey said she used money from her salary to purchase the material and has received some reimbursement in the past for her work in keeping the garden going.
“I have a personal interest in gardening,” she explained. “Raised beds are common now.”
Casey is the leader of the Centre Girl Scouts, and she recruited the girls to help Riedel care for the garden. The Girl Scouts planted the flowers this spring. Casey plans to arrange to let the girls help Riedel keep the garden watered and weeded during the summer months as a community service. They also may establish a fall garden.
Superintendent Jerri Kemble said having all 13 grades in one location made it much easier for Tom, a high school student, to help the elementary school students.
“I like to grow things,” Tom said. “This was another opportunity to do that.”