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WATERVILLE

Families keep garden growing in summer

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Third grader Diana Beach tends to the land lab.

THE BLADE/ZACK LEMON
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This spring, Waterville Primary students planted a garden behind the school, as they have for many years. Now, with the kids out for the summer, families are volunteering to care for the plot through the break so the students return to a garden in full bloom.

“In order to maintain it, it takes a lot of different stakeholders,” Waterville Primary School Principal Jamie Hollinger said.

The land lab predates Ms. Hollinger’s time at the school. It was first planted in 1998 but declined into a weed garden without much direct care until 2005, when it was revived in part by Kim Knapp and her husband David. They live near the garden and have gotten more invested than they ever planned.

“We signed up for a week and it’s clearly taken off since then,” Mrs. Knapp said. Her family coordinates the volunteers and fills in the gaps if no other families are available.

VIDEO: Waterville tends to school garden over summer

Last week, Sandy Beach volunteered her family for a week-long shift, and she will be coming back later in the summer, too.

“They have a really great school, and a really great neighborhood, and I want them to learn it’s part of their job, that they’re supposed to make it that way,” Ms. Beach said. “It’s an important thing for them to learn to be involved somehow.”

Her daughter, Diana, will start third grade in the fall. She and the rest of the second grade planted flowers last school year, and she will be responsible for raising caterpillars into butterflies next year. She liked getting her hands dirty in the garden, and generally enjoys the outdoor classroom.

“It’s greener, and its better out here,” she said. “I can walk around and actually feel and learn about the plants, and sometimes even try the food.”

The food garden was expanded this spring for a fall harvest that will all go to the Anthony Wayne Community Food Pantry, where Waterville Primary teachers also volunteer.

“We’ll be able to provide a lot of fresh food to the pantry,” Ms. Hollinger said. “It’s nice to give our physical time and also to give food.”

Most of the plants and equipment are donated, leaving the district with almost no cost to operate the garden.

Woodland Elementary in Perrysburg launched its own version of a garden classroom this past year, and will be building a shed to house equipment.

“We really wanted to give students authentic experiences, with particularly our science standards,” Woodland Principal Brook Price said. “In the past, we had some activities where things were brought into the classroom to plant on a small scale. We thought, ‘Why not make it a bigger scale, and get whole classes out really diving into getting their hands dirty and watching things grow?’”

She said the school is considering a few other plans for the future, but now school officials want to make sure they can maintain the garden in its current state.

Contact Zack Lemon at: zlemon@theblade.com, 419-724-6282, or on Twitter @zack_lemon.

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