Schoolyard garden gives Elon Elementary School students room to grow

What's Right with Our Schools

ELON, N.C. (WGHP) — At Elon Elementary, they like to think and plan big!

According to teacher Sandra Bays, they had a dream “to have an outdoor classroom. To have beds for every classroom that wanted them. To have space for gardening club. To have handicap-accessible space.”

So, she and another teacher, Stacey Johnson, got to work getting the help of the community and writing grants. And soon, the garden was being built.

“Impact Alamance was the large grant that we did,” Bays said. “And then I also had a Captain Planet, through Dole, that has a smaller grant in here. We’ve also been fortunate to work with the community. We’ve had Eagle scout projects, Girl Scout Silver awards. So just a really big effort to put it together.”

A lot of the work was done over the summer by the teachers and a host of volunteers. It was hot, hard work but Bays says it was “worth every hour.”

“Because these kids are thrilled and just the excitement for them to have this,” she said. “It’s just powerful as an educator.”

The possibilities, she says, are endless with a space like this. 

“We just try to make sure that kids learn how to grow,” Bays said. “If you can teach them what they need then they can grow up and have that opportunity. Kids don’t always understand food doesn’t come from a can or box or a jar. This lets you see firsthand where it starts and it’s just a healthier lifestyle.”

For the students, it’s fun. Gardening Club members Ashlyn Feeley and Audrey Brehm love working in the gardens and are excited for what the year ahead holds.

“It’s been kind of a tough year because we’ve been doing virtual things, but we got really far with the whole of the other parts of the garden,” Feeley said. “But I guess this year we’re going to work more on that bed because that’s our gardening club bed and every Thursday after school we come and work on that.”

And they have big plans to plant vegetables in their sections of the bed. There’s a little bit of everything, from composting beds to a pollinator garden. Galvanized beds for planting herbs and perennials, plus planned spaces for specialty gardens.

The gardens are a way to further the school’s global education.

“Being able to talk about it in the classroom is one thing,” Bays said. “When kids get out here and they understand that they have a part; they’re part of growing something that’s going to help feed someone that can’t afford to go buy it at the grocery store, you’re teaching selflessness. You’re teaching human kindness and everything that should be in a curriculum to begin with, and this garden has given us so many opportunities just to make an impact on our future. These kids grow up knowing I can make a difference, no matter how small or big. And it starts right here in our backyard.”

The next step is a covered kitchen area so they can demonstrate how to cook the foods they grow healthily.

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