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Blue River students get hands-on learning through community garden

The students of Blue River Elementary School are brushing off their spades as they get ready for the upcoming growing season.
The Blue River Elementary School’s first melon being grown in their indoor garden. (Photo courtesy of Lee Onslow)

The students of Blue River Elementary School are brushing off their spades as they get ready for the upcoming growing season.

Lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and various other vegetable plants (along with their very first melon!) have been planted in the school’s indoor garden. Once these plants have matured, and the risk of frost has dissipated, the students will move them to their outdoor boxes at the Blue River Community Garden.

Not only do the kids learn how to plant produce and watch them change and grow, it coincides with their curriculum, said Lee Onslow, a certified education assistant at Blue River Elementary. From the life cycle of a plant to the make-up of seeds and how they sprout, the indoor and outdoor gardens are both fun and educational.

“All of them have now been exposed to the planting of the garden for three years,” she said. “They’re awesome at it!”

Each student was given a tray to plant what they wanted. When they have matured, the plants will be transported to the kids’ boxes at the community garden. Each of the kids have their own box at the garden, and the school has two boxes as well, which the kids will tend to throughout the season as well.

Come fall, the produce will be harvested.

But, the Blue River Community Garden isn’t just for the students. There are about 12 boxes for community members who may not have the ability, the time or space to tend to their own garden. Anyone is welcome to help out with these garden boxes, and to harvest from them as well.

They usually are planted with lettuce, spinach, kale and carrots — the more grab-and-go-style of vegetables.

“If you need some greens to have a salad that evening, you could probably just walk down to the garden mid-season and get everything you needed,” said Onslow, who also coordinates the community garden.

Over the few years since she took over the coordination of the community garden in 2018, she has applied for and received grants to complete various projects including a rock garden at the entrance, planting a few maple trees and a new gazebo. The volunteer base has grown from a handful to about 30 people and the garden now has 40 boxes.

For a town of about 160 people, that’s a huge percentage of the population to get motivated and come out to help the garden, she said.

Onslow also has plans to apply for funding to create a vegetable wash station at the garden, with a farm-style sink, screened areas and a drying section, to create a bring-your-own-bowl type of gathering.

“It’s a meeting point that’s inclusive to everyone,” she said.

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