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Garden blooms love of learning

Pateros school links gardening

— Local students are spending their afternoons learning about Pateros School District’s fledgling garden, which could be finished by the end of the day Monday.

“We’re busy gardening, gardening and gardening,” teacher Joy McCulley said Thursday while elementary school children sat on the ground and listened to a story about wildlife.

The garden is located behind the small, district-owned yellow house next to the school, 344 W. Beach St. As of Thursday, a couple trees had been planted, holes had been dug for more trees and dozens of small plants filled the greenhouse.

Wooden soil-filled bins, some containing spinach planted last year, are waiting for more seeds.

“This has been a dream of mine for many, many years,” McCulley said, looking around at the unfinished garden.

About 35 Intermountain AmeriCorps volunteers will complete most, if not all of the work Monday afternoon, volunteer Tracy Miller said.

The project is slated for 1-4 p.m.; community volunteers are invited to participate.

“We are called the Pateros Planting Pals,” she said. “We plan on using the garden for educational purposes. We’re already enjoying it because we’ve been out looking at the buds and the bugs.

“They love it out there.”

A learning center will be located on the left side of the garden to test soil, along a row of trees being planted to provide shade. Other plans include a bean pole, a composting area, an herb garden, a living fence to grow raspberries, a butterfly garden, a native plant garden, bins for potatoes and sweet potatoes and another bin for each grade level from kindergarten through sixth-grade.

Students planted their seeds about a month ago, Miller said, and once the garden is ready, the seeds will be transplanted into the bins.

The garden is part of McCulley’s “The Great Garden Detective Adventure” curriculum for students in kindergarten through sixth-grade.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the curriculum to intertwine lessons about nutrition and gardening with reading, math, science and health.

“We are really working hard to get the kids involved, from the farm to the plate,” McCulley said. “We want to keep the kids engaged, to get them reading and eating healthy.

AmeriCorps and the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America club have just secured a grant to help the school with a reading program, McCulley said. Through the grant, the school will be able to send some books home with children to read with their parents.

“We want parents to be the teachers,” McCulley said.

McCulley said parents and community volunteers are invited to help grow the garden, and she hopes it will teach children and their low-income parents how to grow their own at home.

Two master gardeners have offered to lend a hand, and senior Dakota Salcido has also volunteered his time.

“It was kind of needed,” Salcido, 18, said about why he wanted to work in the garden. “Before everything, there were weeds all along the fence.”

He said working in the garden gives him some time to relax and think about his departure for college next fall.

The greenhouse came to the school about seven years ago. McCulley led a fundraising drive to purchase it, but the one delivered to the school was larger than the model they could afford, she said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of volunteer help and donated materials,” Miller said, noting that funding for the garden came from the Pateros Apple Pie Jamboree Committee and a recent crab feed at American Legion Post 97 in Brewster.

Other fresh produce will include carrots, lettuces, strawberry plants, onions, radishes, tomatoes and more, Miller said.

The produce will be given to a local resident, who plans to sell it at the new Pateros farmers market this summer, McCulley said.

Tonasket School District started its own garden last year overlooking the campus. The first seedlings were planted in May 2013, according to the Tonasket School Garden Association’s website, tonasketschoolgarden.zohosites.com.

A shop class created metal gates for it, and a shed has been installed to store students’ tools.

Other area school districts with educational gardens and/or greenhouses include Omak, Methow Valley and Brewster.

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