A ‘growing’ opportunity in Keokuk
Each year gardening projects at Hawthorne Elementary in the Keokuk Community School District involve more than just a few students and staff: It’s a collaborative effort with the entire district and community.
- In early spring elementary students will start seeds in their classrooms using the seed starting center that includes forfeited grow lights provided by the Lee County Narcotics Task Force.
- The produce from the garden is utilized in Keokuk’s Summer Food Service Program and additional produce is brought for families to take home. Approximately 200 pounds of produce is given away to local families each summer.
- The garden’s raised beds were built by their Art & Industrial Tech club at the middle school.
- The beds were designed to be made into hoop houses by placing netting over them to keep out deer and rabbits; a local business donated the supplies.
- The local grocery donated gardening soil for the raised beds.
- Large recycled tin cans from the kitchen are used to protect transplanted seedlings.
- Kindergarteners painted wooden signs for the raised beds and butterfly garden.
This spring the school is adding an addition to its garden program, thanks to Chris Lindner, a local farmer and parent in the district, who has built 12 mobile garden carts for students. The carts will be used to grow produce in classrooms throughout the district.
The school district saw the benefits from wagons in a smaller project last year.
“The wagons provided the opportunity to grow produce all year long, even during Iowa’s winter months,” said Sarah Wetzel, food service director for the district. “There are so many applications for in the classroom, especially with science units. In addition, the special education teachers plan to utilize the carts as they provide sensory learning opportunities. With previous garden projects we have seen that kids learn better when they are actively engaged with hands-on activities and having a little fun along the way.”
The community partnerships have been essential to their success.
“We are very proud of our growing program in Keokuk,” Wetzel said. “Our partnerships have made the program sustainable and has provided the opportunity for expansion each year.”