Oakbrook Preparatory School

Oakbrook students cultivate life lessons through gardening

For more than six years, Oakbrook has had a thriving garden program that is producing healthy snacks and life lessons for its students.

Broccoli, kale, and radishes are not common foods for students to get excited about, but when it's grown by them, they've been known to fight over the leftovers.

For more than six years, Oakbrook has had a thriving garden program that is producing healthy snacks and life lessons for its students.

Oakbrook's first garden was started by alumnus Laura Godenick, who chose a school garden as her senior project. She approached the three fourth grade teachers about having their classes partner with her. Laura planned and built three raised beds, and also visited the classes several times a week to teach and guide the young students in planting and caring for a vegetable garden.

The following year, with Laura graduated and gone on to college, the fourth graders and Mrs. Jeanie Nethery moved up to the fifth grade. They decided to plant three beds of colorful zinnias. They dissected the flowers as they learned about pollination, and plant reproduction. They also had a surprise lesson on vegetative propagation when they found potatoes growing among the flowers. After that year, it was decided that the experience of gardening was too valuable to keep to one group of students, so the garden has stayed in the fifth grade while the original group of Oakbrook farmers are now in freshmen.

Oakbrook parent Mrs. Margo Baghdaddy volunteered the third year and has since continued to help the fifth graders plan and plant a square-foot fall vegetable garden. In this method, each student is responsible for farming one square-foot plot. They clean out the weeds, prepare the soil with compost, figure out how many seedlings or seeds they need to plant, depending on the proper spacing for their particular vegetable, thin the plants, weed, and water. They use a planting chart to mark the number of days to germination and the number of days to harvest. Once a week, they document the progress in a journal. As each crop is harvested, that vegetable is prepared and brought back to school for the fifth graders to share. 

“The garden truly becomes an extension of the classroom and is a prime example of experiential learning,” said Middle School Director Dawn Rollins.

It is a great teaching tool, said Mrs. Nethery. “The children not only learn about the composition of soil, nutrients, and the life cycle of plants, but they learn valuable lessons about being faithful to tend what has been entrusted to them. They are often required to solve problems along the way, like cabbage worms. They get to experience delayed gratification while waiting for their plants to mature. And, in the end, when they see the miraculous transformation of a tiny seed, into a large plant that can feed several people, they get a glimpse of the magnificent mind and generous heart of our Creator,” Nethery said.

Oakbrook’s youngest students have also become master gardeners. The K3 and K4 students have enjoyed planting seeds and watching them grow for the last two years.

“I love gardening with the little ones because they are able to see how a little seed turns into yummy vegetables they can eat,” said K4 teacher Leslee Page.

“The boys and girls are responsible for their little portion of the garden and they take great pride in watering, talking and singing to their vegetable.”

  

 


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