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Engaging Curious Minds

By Becky Clemons, Colorado Master Gardener

The Clayton Elementary School Community Garden is located in Englewood and serves students in grades K-6. The garden is a special place for students to enhance their learning experiences during the different seasons.

Early spring, master gardeners present gardening classes to each grade level. They introduce topics such as pollinators, plant needs, parts of a plant, plant life cycle, composting, native plants, and heirloom vs. hybrid plants. Student activities include reading seed packets, learning about the miracle of a seed, and how to start seeds for their garden plots.

Wonder and delight in the garden. Photos: Becky Clemons

The Spring Workday kicks off the season. Students and their families, along with master gardeners, prep the gardens for planting by cleaning the area, weeding and adding compost.

In May, before school lets out for the summer, master gardeners help guide students in planning and planting their grade level plots. Students are reminded about the care and maintenance needed to help the newly planted seeds and seedlings to sprout, grow and thrive. Smiles, laughter and dirt-covered hands make for very special moments!

Throughout the spring, summer and fall, students are busy doing a variety of activities; observing and taking pictures of their favorite flower, vegetable or pollinator, weeding, turning over compost, checking on their prized tomato or pepper and taste testing as they ripen. Strawberries and blackberries are tasty treats as they investigate the garden.

Classes often take place sitting under the shade of a tree, listening to bees buzzing and birds chirping, making reading, writing and math so much more fun.

The benches and picnic tables offer the perfect spot for families, who often stop by the Little Library, to read a story to their children in the beautiful setting of the garden.

Clayton’s summer Kids Book and Fun Garden Club is held once a week. Participants read nature stories, plant seeds, enjoy crafts, color pictures of pollinators, work on scavenger hunts and so much more. Sampling different vegetables, herbs and fruits is always a favorite part of their time.

In the fall, students return to school, excited to harvest their vegetables, pick fruit from the trees and blackberry bushes and the melon patch. Their look of surprise when they pull carrots from the soil is priceless. They are full of pride when presenting their harvest to their parents. They are excited to share how they grew their delicious vegetables from seed to harvest, especially the carrots.

As temperatures start to cool, students help with the final harvest of winter squash and pumpkins. Pumpkins provide fun learning opportunities. Students sketch their favorite pumpkin after measuring and weighing them. They also count, collect and bake seeds.

During the Fall Workday, students start buzzing about what they would like to plant next year.

The garden is a special place for kids to learn and grow. Their smiles and laughter only add to the beauty of the garden.

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