This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Northern Gardener.
New Growth Garden at Pines School
Pines School, located on the grounds of the Anoka County Juvenile Center in Lino Lakes, serves middle and high school at-risk youth. In its third year, the 4,000 square foot New Growth Garden was created to develop life skills and grow a lifelong love of gardening. “Gardening is very therapeutic for the kids who are locked up—they plant a seed and nurture it; they become very connected,” says Joe Ludens, a teacher at the school.
Joe and fellow teacher Lori Kordell have led the garden project and incorporate horticulture in their classrooms. “The kids didn’t understand where food comes from,” says Joe. “They didn’t know about how a pepper plant grows flowers that turn into peppers, didn’t know that you can grow popcorn.”
The students are involved in all aspects of the garden: planning, seed starting, soil preparation, planting, maintenance, harvesting and food prep.
“The Minnesota Green program has been awesome,” says Lori. “We’ve received so many seeds and plants, plus things like a raised bed garden from Wagners and rain barrels. It’s great because our budget is very limited.”
Through their experiences with the garden, the kids have learned the caring and giving aspects of life. “In their world before Pines School and the garden, you didn’t do something for someone without getting something in return,” says Lori. “Now they’re picking out the best plants for customers at their plant sale and sharing the vegetables and fruits they’ve grown with family and staff. The whole process of growing plants has changed how they look at life.”