Students at Canyon Creek Elementary School south of Billings spent Earth Day digging in the dirt.
Planting vegetables and wildflowers in raised beds behind the school, students put the finishing touches on a new community garden Thursday afternoon.
“The kids all built it and filled it,” said Jennifer Tolton, a second-grade teacher at the school.
L-shaped with individual beds for squash, the garden will grow all sorts of vegetables, including potatoes, radishes, lettuce, spinach, pumpkins and carrots.
The idea is to harvest the produce this fall and use it in the lunchroom, Tolton said.
It’s a way for students to connect what they eat with where it comes from, she said. It also gives them a chance to learn in a hands-on way about ecology and biology — which can be hard to do from just a textbook.
Getting them out working on the garden and on the science projects connected to it is the best classroom, she said.
As part of their science curriculum, seventh-graders at the school planted wildflowers and sunflowers in the garden.
“It’s new,” said seventh-grader Ashley Spence.
“It’s fun,” added classmate Kassi Johnson.
While it’ll be educational to watch how the flowers grow, the students seemed most interested in how the vegetables would turn out. But when they started talking about the possibility of eating the vegetables they were growing, the enthusiasm seemed to dampen. Apparently, a vegetable — homegrown or not — is still a vegetable.
“Ewwwww,” Ashley said.
But others disagreed. Kassi said it would be good for students to eat fresh vegetables because then they’d be eating less processed food.
“I think this is healthier,” she said.
The garden project started with help from the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council, the local branch of the Northern Plains Resource Council. The group was looking for schools to host community gardens and Tolton, a member of the Yellowstone council, volunteered Canyon Creek.
Watching the result Thursday, she said it couldn’t have worked out better.
“Everything came together really well,” she said. “The more we worked on it, the more enthusiastic everyone got.”
Contact Rob Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 406-657-1231.