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Ripley afterschool Garden Club seeing fruits of its labor

October 19, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - Many parents struggle to get their children to eat vegetables, but the members of the Ripley Elementary Garden Club had no objection to enthusiastically sampling the produce they had grown, including the flowers.

Members of the Ripley teacher Krystal Miller's afterschool Garden Club gathered with her, Ripley curriculum coordinator Erin Wheeler and music teacher Carrie Loomis to celebrate a successful growing season on Wednesday Oct. 14. The garden, located in an enclosed courtyard of the school building, boasts an impressive array of vegetables, fruits and plants.

Wheeler began the celebration. "We're going to do a quick scavenger hunt. We'll take about one minute to find each item." She then asked student Cordell Rivera announce the first item. "Something cold," Cordell said. Students raced to grab such items as a rain gauge, a cold blade of grass, cold water, and even cold air.

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Ripley curriculum coordinator Erin Wheeler teaches members of the Ripley Garden Club about the many smells of various garden plants.

The next thing that Cordell announced was "a flower." Pupils came back to the group with marigolds, nasturtiums, zinnias, dandelions, and petunias. Wheeler noted that the nasturtium is an edible flower and they would have a chance to taste some in a little while.

Cordell then told the Garden Club members to look for "a seed." Many students found sunflower seeds, while others discovered marigold, zinnia, and radish seeds. The last thing the youngsters were challenged to find was "a vegetable or a fruit." They unearthed many things from their garden, including a tiny watermelon, a cantaloupe, tomatoes, beans, carrots, radishes, and cucumbers.

Wheeler then moved from identifying things by sight to smells. She then invited the youngsters to smell things from the garden that she had placed in small paper bags. The students avidly smelled samples of the tomato plant, lavender, sage, rosemary, chives, and basil.

Then came the chance to taste. Wheeler told the students "My favorite things to eat are the things that I've grown." While the potatoes cooked with rosemary and chives were the most popular, the students also enjoyed the cucumbers, carrots, peppers and even the edible flower of the nasturtium, although many found it too spicy.

Jasmine Hawkins said, "the potatoes were really good. I think they tasted better than the ones you buy in the grocery store.

Carson Pinzok agreed. "The potatoes were my favorite. I think the ones we have here have more nutrition and taste better." Pinzok also tasted a nasturtium. "They're really spicy on one side of the tongue," he commented.

Layton Ormsby also found the taste of the flower surprising. "The flower is super spicy. I had to grab a pepper to eat," he said. "I like the club because you can grow plants and at the end of the year, you can eat them. Last year, we had blueberries and we made pancakes."

Lilly Otto didn't care for the nasturtium. "I liked it all except the flower," she said. "I enjoy the garden club because you can get outside and help the environment." she said.

Emily Hawkins commented on her involvement in the Garden Club. "I think we did a lot of interesting garden things this year. It was a really good experience." She noted how they collected things for their worm garden. Regarding her participation in the Garden Club, she said "I like that we're helping our community in various and different ways."

Miller said the Garden Club is not limited to the courtyard garden, which it shares with the entire school. They have been planting tulips around the school, which she said she hopes will bloom in conjunction with red-ribbon week in the spring. Also, the club takes care of the flower beds around the school and does a beach clean-up along the lake, she said.

Wheeler noted that Ripley cafeteria manager Sheila Bentley incorporates much of the produce from the school's garden into the lunch menu. The school also received a $500 grant from Tractor Supply for the garden that allowed them to purchase many items such as mulch, trellises, seeds, watering cans and hoses, she said.

Wheeler said she believes learning to grow food can have a lasting impact in a child's life. "I think if you grow your own food as a child, you have a greater appreciation of where it comes from," she said. "I also think you're more willing to try a food if you've grown it."



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