Planting seeds for healthier tomorrows

If you have been able to visit the beautiful rooftop of the new Middletown building, then you might have noticed seven empty garden plots waiting to be filled! These garden plots were specifically inserted into the blueprint of the rooftop to benefit local community members such as the students of the Macdonough Elementary School Garden club.  Throughout the course of the school year, thirty or so students have been meeting once a week to learn about the art of gardening and the benefits of growing your own fruits and vegetables when the weather allows it. The Community Health Center, inc. and the local school have a special relationship which has allowed several collaborative projects to happen during my time at CHC.

Last Friday, the garden club packed up some of their plants and walked over to the rooftop for a chance to start the first of many trips to the club’s designated garden plots. As the group arrived in the lobby of the building, you could see (and hear) the excitement among the children right before we headed up to the roof! Some students were eager to point out that they have been in the new building already and those who were first time visitors seemed more than pleased with the bright colors around them.  Once we made it to the roof, the students were instantly distracted by their surroundings. One student noticed that you can see their school from the roof, a few students pointed towards their streets, and a good number of kids ran straight for the rock fountain. After briefly going over some rules, the children grabbed a banana and began to refocus on the gardening they came to do!

The group brought a few bean plants they have been growing at school to place, and we also had tomato, cucumber, and sweet violet plants for them to add to the plots. With the help of some CHC staff members, the children had trowels and mini rakes available to prepare the soil. Colorful watering cans were filled carefully, and the teacher began to give directions. Half the students were assigned to make bumblebee shaped plant tags for the soil to identify different vegetables. The other half began to dig, plant, and water with their partner. It seemed that students really enjoyed the actual watering of the plants as well as getting an excuse to play in the dirt. The groups switched and before we knew it, the time had come to clean up and prepare for the next visit.

The overall goal is to get these gardens in full bloom with various fruits and vegetables that can be sold at our local farmers market by the students. Although the school year is coming to a close, we are lucky to have a group of students from summer school come during July to continue the upkeep.  We are trying to work with other community groups to get more plots filled. The rooftop is a great place to generate excitement among younger kinds when it comes to gardening; we look forward to the students returning this Friday to continue their hard work. The club advisor said she had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from both parents and students after last week’s trip to the roof!

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