Carnegie students get their hands dirty with garden project |
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Megan Guza
Basem Majed and Keven Zhang

As oats, peas, beans and barley grow in Carnegie Elementary School’s new garden, students will learn about the process step by step.

The garden is the product of collaboration among the school, Grow Pittsburgh, Mayor Jack Kobistek and the Carnegie-Collier Rotary. The Rotary is funding the project.

Grow Pittsburgh, located in the city’s Homewood neighborhood, is a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting sustainable community gardens. Carnegie’s garden is part of the Edible Schoolyard program, which combines garden activities and classroom learning.

“I truly didn’t know what to expect, but it is just awesome,” said Beth Martys, the lead teacher for the garden project. “It was amazing just to see how hard they worked and how into it they were.”

Twenty fifth- and sixth-grade students were chosen to work on the garden. Students had to write an essay explaining why they should be chosen for the project. Students have been involved in nearly every aspect of the garden since it was developed in April, including planting, preparing soil and transferring seedlings into the garden.

Carnegie Elementary is one of the first schools to participate as an affiliate school in Grow Pittsburgh’s Edible Schoolyard program. As an affiliate school, Grow Pittsburgh volunteers help set up the garden before handing it over to the community.

“Before deciding to go somewhere, we want to make sure the right people are there to make this garden become sustainable,” said Jake Seltman, director of educational programming at Grow Pittsburgh.

“The goal is to really support them to create a system for many years.”

Grow Pittsburgh provides 72 lesson plans on its website that teachers can use in the classroom to parallel what students are doing with the garden. Lesson plans are categorized by growing season and crop, and others look at the science behind gardening and growing.

“They’re learning the whole process, from composting to how we’re using food in the cafeteria,” said Carnegie Principal Carla Hudson. “We’re in the baby steps of it, but we hope it can be something extraordinary.”

Martys said the students are learning the math and science behind the gardening, and she hopes that as the garden becomes more established, more grade levels can participate. Her goal is to incorporate the fruits and vegetables grown into the school’s lunch program. On June 5, students will sample some of the vegetables ready for harvest.

Hudson said she thinks that will be a moment of pride for the students.

“We haven’t really gotten to see the whole ‘aww’ moment yet,” she said. “Right now, there are some sprouts. When they actually see the harvest of the fruits and vegetables, that will be the big ‘aww’ moment.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or [email protected].

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