Garden-in-a-Box Stories

Jefferson Elementary School in New Ulm

Testimonial from Jefferson Elementary School Teacher Beth Sletta:

“I help over 650 students in grades 1-4 experience hands-on lessons related to STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. In January of 2017, the students heard a presentation from two local beekeepers. It inspired them to ask the school for space to create a small garden for a pollinator habitat.

The school offered up space, but there was no money in the budget. However, the students didn’t let that stop them. They formed a student garden team and started brainstorming about how we could make the dream of a school garden a reality.

One place we found help was the Garden-in-a-Box program from MSHS. Although the program was mostly for vegetable gardening, it seemed like a great place to start. The students were thrilled when we were notified that our application for GIAB was accepted. Then the real planning began!

Spring was a bit late, so the anxious students spent time planting the GIAB seeds indoors. We had to clear the ground for the garden, and a local Boy Scout troop volunteered time to build the platforms for the GIAB beds. The students were very excited to start, and we spent many chilly hours filling the raised beds with compost and soil, and placing them just where the students thought would be best.

By mid-May, it was finally warm enough to plant seedlings. What an exciting time for all! Students begged to visit the garden, families took bike rides past the garden to see the progress, and classroom teachers brought their students outside to check things out.

The garden is part of the summer care program housed at our school as well. Every Friday, approximately 30 elementary students worked in the garden for two hours. They weeded, picked vegetables, transplanted, and watered.

Our first harvest was very small, but the excitement was HUGE! And the garden continued to grow, along with the involvement of students, families, staff and neighbors. Eventually, we shared the enormous amount of produce from the garden with all.

Students have learned about healthy eating, and the produce from the garden is used in weekly lessons to make snack trays, basil pesto, strawberry and kale smoothies, pizzas, and even chocolate beet cake. Flowers grown in the garden were arranged in vases and delivered to retired teachers, shut-ins, and neighbors of the garden.

And GIAB was just the tip of the iceberg. Due to your support, students continue to learn about gardening for pollinators. Community connections have been strengthened. And visitors of all ages visit the garden to teach or to lend a hand. One of my favorite volunteers is my 89-year-old dad!

This schoolyard garden would not have been possible without the very generous support of the GIAB program and MSHS. The lessons the students learned followed them home and students are now gardening with their families. It is so exciting! I cannot thank MSHS and GIAB enough for all the support given in order to make this outdoor learning space a reality for our school.”

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