Elementary students put learning into practice at Hillsboro garden
For seven years, Hillsboro Elementary School students have been putting their learning into practice by tending garden plots fashioned out of railroad ties and telephone poles.
“There’s many ways we can accentuate what we learn in school by involving the outdoors and getting kids active and participating,” the gardens’ adult caretaker, Evan Yoder, said. “It’ll stick tighter if we can mix it with things that get them physically involved.”
Yoder has supplemented the gardens, built by city workers, with seedlings from his own greenhouse and occasionally lambs from his farm. He also has built two extra plots for kindergarten and first grade classes and chicken houses for the school.
Yoder, 62, learned gardening from his mother and grandmother and passes along the knowledge during tours at the end of most school days.
“I’d take a different group of kids out there to gather the eggs and talk about the lambs, if we had them out,” Yoder said, describing his routine. “Then we’d go over and pick the radishes and spinach, then take it in, clean it, and eat it out there.”
He enjoys watching students who don’t have access to fresh vegetables taste the fruit of their labor.
“Those kids that had never tried a fresh radish or have never had spinach that had been picked and cleaned, they could try that right there. It’s amazing how good that is!” he said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Yoder has managed to grow radishes and spinach and plans to plant cabbage and broccoli. Planting tomatoes and peppers now, he hopes kids will be able to harvest them when school resumes in the fall.
The pandemic has limited cleaning and eating of vegetables.
“We have not been able to because I can’t mix grade levels,” he said. “It has really put a muck in our gardening this spring.
“This year has been an aberration. Every year for the past five we’ve had the garden all worked up, but because of COVID, what we can do is limited.”
Yoder hopes to use $15,000 that Hillsboro Elementary received from Frontier Farm Credit to start construction of a greenhouse next year.
“We could do so many things with that,” he said. “We could teach kids how to grow plants from seeds, sell some plants, plant what we have, donate some. There’re just so many things we could do with that! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
He also would like to start a gardening club during the summer. A school secretary now waters the garden over the summer. A club would allow students to continue working with plants and learn more about gardening.
“There’re a lot of things we can do,” Yoder said. “Sky’s the limit. We just need to get over this plague we’re in right now and get a little bit more back to normal.”