By: Kathy Mavity and Ashlee Eastham, 6th grade teachers at DMS
The Marathon Oil Unconventional Teaching grant was awarded in the fall of 2021 for the use of creating a sustainable garden. Since receiving the grant, our students have been learning about gardening and how to grow sustainable foods in the Dickinson, ND area.
In early March of 2022, we invited our Stark County Extension Agent, Kurt Froelich, into the classroom to provide background information about gardening to students. Mr. Froelich shared his PowerPoint about growing vegetables in container gardens, what varieties of vegetables would grow well in Dickinson, and the types of soils and fertilizers that were most common to use when maintaining gardens in our area. Students had questions about growing vegetables in school as well as growing vegetables at their homes. It was helpful to have an expert in our classroom, and Mr. Froelich has agreed to come in when we transplant into the bigger vegetable containers.
Toward the end of April 2023, a group of our students chose the vegetables they would like to plant to begin the journey from ground to table. Students researched and decided on leaf lettuce, pumpkins, squash, potatoes, radishes, cucumbers, and sunflowers. A determining factor was the growing cycle and how students can chart overall growth in early fall.
Dr. Lewton and Ms. Francis allowed our class a small plot of land behind the basketball court to be the site for our garden. Students drew up a plan of how the plants will be planted into the garden plot, and they staked the ground to be plowed up. Dr. Lewton agreed to come over with his tractor so the students could participate in the “groundbreaking” ceremony! Students are extremely excited to see Dr. Lewton on the tractor.
Kayleigh Orluck, a student in Mrs. Mavity's 6th grade literacy class shared, "My dad works for Marathon Petroleum. He told me the company had grant money they wanted to give to schools, so he asked me to get in touch with my teacher about a possible project. The next day I went to Mrs. Mavity and asked her about it and if we got it approved what we could use it for. About a week later Mrs. Mavity shared plans for what we could do with the grant; she wanted to make a classroom garden! Hearing this was very exciting so when I got home, I told my mom right away. My mom called my dad and told him about it. He said Mrs. Mavity needed to do a few things for this to work so he talked to her about it. It took about a week or two to hear news back. We heard back and we were approved for a grant of $2,000! We were so excited and I couldn’t wait to share the news with Mrs. Mavity and my class!!! Now, this Wednesday, we are breaking ground for our garden and my dad is coming to take pictures and watch Dr. Lewton run the tractor. Our class is going to have such a great time planting our vegetables and watching our garden grow!"
When the weather is conducive, our literacy class will transplant their vegetables from inside to outside and we will be able to pull hoses to set up a sprinkler to water the garden over the summer. Students have signed up to meet us and “weed” the garden periodically, as well as to help build a fence around the garden to keep the wildlife out.
The beauty of this project is that our current sixth graders will be able to care for and enjoy the flower beds during their entire time at DMS. The project also crosses the academic content area with measurement and volume in math as well as cellular structure in science. Students will keep their journals until the end of their sixth grade year, and then we will collect them to hand them back when they come in as seventh graders. Mrs. Easthham and my class will continue to journal about our plants in seventh grade, and Mrs. Logan and our kitchen staff will help us make lunch from our harvest in the fall.
It will be exciting to see how far the sustainable garden will go with students as they progress through middle school.