In a quiet suburb 13-miles west of Downtown Dallas, a local elementary school has added more fiber to their lesson plans. In Grand Prairie, Colin Powell Elementary School has re-opened its local garden on campus. The garden is an oasis located behind the elementary school on less than a third of an acre. The fenced garden contains six garden beds, a rainwater harvesting center, a shed, a bench and a small containable pond that is filled with rocks today with the hope of replacing the rocks with small fish and turtles.
Powell Elementary Garden Club launched its fall gardening classes last month and has begun clearing the land, planting seeds and integrating lessons into the curriculum to teach students about planting fruits, vegetables, shrubs and herbs. "We feel this garden provides many teachable moments for the teachers and students. Believe it or not, we have found some students are not familiar with plants such as broccoli or cabbage," shares Amy Swinehart, First Grade Teacher for Colin Powell Elementary in the Grand Prairie Independent School District.
The school's goals are to create a community within the school and expose the students to sustainable farming practices at an early age. Teachers would like to introduce nutrition at an early age in hopes of doing their part to combat obesity on a small scale. "The students are able to take what we grow back to the classroom, research the plants and then share a meal together," states Swinehart. The goals seem attainable but the teachers worry the external community may not support their mission. The garden has been vandalized and has had property stolen including plants on numerous occasions. "We need the community's help to ensure this garden is safe. We're working on a plan to secure the space all year round," states Kevin Pennebaker, Art Teacher and Garden Club Coordinator for Colin Powell Elementary.
Despite the challenges, the school plans to continue its effort to re-launch the Garden Club this month and has recently been awarded a grant from a local nonprofit called, Rain Ranchers, who will provide two 255-gallon rainwater barrels to help the gardeners harvest fresh rainwater to sustain the garden during the brutal Texas seasons and to save money on water. The school also partners with Real School Gardens whose staff comes out to the school to provide free seeds, training for the staff, volunteers and students.
The Powell Elementary Garden Club is planning a garden day fundraiser and is looking for more community partners to volunteer, provide materials, gardening supplies and funding to help sustain the project. To learn more contact Kevin Pennebaker at (972)642-3961 or Kevin.Pennebaker@gpisd.org.
Story by Cynthia Nevels, amateur chef and Natural Food Enthusiast.