Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 5:49 PM on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From a single idea, a community garden grows

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Donald Woods won a $20 award for the sample garden map of a 10-foot-by-10-foot plot in the Anchor Point Community Garden; Garrett Cooper received a $10 award for writing the best letter to the editor seeking uspport for the garden project.

What has become a community garden project for Chapman School's 129 students began with mention of a grant opportunity in an email from Tina Seaton, service unit manager for Kachemak Bay Girl Scouts, to Billeen Carlson, leader of Troop 515. Now, even the community is becoming involved.

The People's Garden Grant, offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, offers funding to communities to create community gardens. Locally, that fits MAPP — Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership — of the Southern Peninsula and its vision for a healthy southern peninsula and its emphasis on local, affordable, safe, sustainable and diverse food, as well as healthy and safe individuals and families.

"I've been wanting to do something like this," said Carlson of her dream for a community garden.

Not waiting to be awarded the grant, Carlson and her troop — Katie Clark, Cora and Jamie Parish, and Carlson's daughter, Colleen — are off and running. The garden will be planted by Carlson's troop and Chapman students in the spring, tended and harvested by the youngsters and the produce sold at the school's Halloween carnival next fall. Proceeds will benefit the school and ensure the garden's future.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10221 has donated a 40-by-50-foot piece of property. Al Poindexter of Anchor Point Greenhouse has offered soil. Chyrell Richardson has donated lumber to construct raised beds.

Principal Conrad Woodhead said Chapman teachers are using the garden as a key piece in classroom curriculum.

"The fifth and sixth grade is studying mapping in conjunction with biology, democracy and community service," said teacher Lila Little. "We surveyed the VFW land and chose a spot for the garden by voting after a class discussion on access to light and water. We mapped the area out into the 10-by-10 plots. ... Each kid cleared (his or her) plot of rocks, sticks and weeds."

Fifth-grader Donald Wood was awarded $20 for his garden map; classmate Finn Heimbold won $10 for writing the best thank-you letter to the VFW; Garrett Cooper won $10 for his letter to the editor (see page 17).


The third- and fourth-grade students in Pavla Tyson's class not only harvested fruits and vegetables, but also preserved them. They have since enjoyed soup and sandwiches with the vegetables they canned and bluebaerry jam they made.

A sign identifying the donated VFW land as the garden spot will be created soon.

"I'm sure the first and second grade will be involved in that," said Carlson.

In the spring, kindergarteners will get seeds started for the garden.

With the seventh- and eighth-grade students in charge of Chapman's student council, Carlson sees their role expanding to be in charge of organizing the project and managing the proceeds.

The project dovetailed perfectly with the activities in Pavla Tyson's third- and fourth-grade classroom. The 20 students not only participated in harvesting Tyson's garden, but also made and canned pickles, sauerkraut, a vegetable soup stock and blueberry jam. They have since enjoyed a meal made from the items they made and have a display of their work in the classroom. The hallway outside their classroom is covered with photos documenting the experience.

Taking it one step further, all of Tyson's students put their names into a jar and drew one family to be the recipient of a student-prepared garden.

Working with the chosen family, the youngsters identified the area where the garden will be located. They also harvested kelp from the beach and are using it, along with chicken manure, to enrich the soil during the winter before they plant the garden next spring.

"This is super exciting," said Carlson. "It's not just me. That's the thing. It's everybody doing this, pulling it all together."