Harker student Kelsey Chan, Gr. 8, wanted to give back to her community and can now point with pride to taking part in an innovative program. Middle school advisory groups are growing fruits and vegetables on campus and the harvest is going to Martha’s Kitchen, which feeds the hungry and the homeless in San Jose.
“It is such an easy way to be able to make a difference,’’ said Chan, who has been growing carrots with classmate Monica Lee.
Tim Culbertson, who teaches Gr. 6 environmental studies and Gr. 8 population studies, started the project last year after receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation through a Stanford professor he had been working with for the last few years. The idea was simple: grow edible annual plants (carrots, corn, etc.) to donate to food kitchens in San Jose.
The first harvest was in September, with carrots, onions and watermelons; the next harvest is coming up in March.
Students from four advisories, about 40 students, either pair up or work in groups of four and each group is responsible for a four-foot square plot, located at end of one of the classroom wings. The students must determine what to plant, how much space is required and when to harvest. They supply their own seeds, do the planting and tilling and, finally, harvest the crops. Students also do a short PowerPoint presentation on their endeavor.
Besides Culbertson’s advisory, students in Rebecca Williams’, Henry Cuningham’s and Steven Hewitt’s advisories all take part. Hewitt is the liaison between Martha’s Kitchen and the school, while Williams oversees the composting project, said Culbertson. Lunch waste from the four advisories is used to fertilize the plants.
During the school year, the students tend to the plants one to four days a week and during the summer months there is an automatic watering system, Culbertson said. “I also come out about once a week to check on things.’’
Culbertson is thrilled with not just the harvest but what the students get out of it. “It creates personal accountability because each group is responsible for their own spaces and the end result is that it is going for a very worthy cause,’’ he said.
Plans are already in the works to renew the grant for the upcoming year and to expand the area to about twice the size, Culbertson said. So, the next time you are on the middle school campus, make sure you take a gander at the garden!