- Published: September 30, 2009
Original Source | The Clackamas Review
By Ellen Spitaleri, Tuesday September 29, 2009
It was the first recess on a sunny day, and 30 kindergartners from the Gladstone Center for Children and Families rushed out back to the raised bed garden and gathered around corn stalks taller than they were.
Teacher Amanda Mcindoe encouraged them to touch the feathery ears of corn and to look at the bounty crop of cherry tomatoes, and then she released them to go to the playground."Some of these children have never seen corn growing," said Mike Buchanan, center director.
But, he noted, that is going to change this year, because the center has been awarded an $8,800 grant from the Gardenburger Company to set up a community garden, and Mcindoe has been named the on-site coordinator for the grant.
The center, located across the street from Gladstone High School, provides education services to children ages 3 to 5, through Head Start, Healthy Start, the ESD and the kindergarten program.
A garden's lessons
Children in the summer programs ate tomatoes all summer long, and even the smallest ones planted pumpkin seeds and watered the garden.
And some "wandering" pumpkins provided a wonderful lesson, Buchanan said.
At the far corner of the playground, a neighbor's pumpkin plants made their way through the chain link fence and took up residence.
"The children were very careful with those pumpkins - even the youngest children [took] care of them all summer. And now the children will write letters to the neighbor telling her about the pumpkins and showing that we are good neighbors in caring for them," Buchanan said.
When he was notified in August that the center was one of only 14 schools to receive grant money from Gardenburger, out of 362 applicants, he was "stunned," Buchanan said.
That money has allowed him to have conversations with his staff he never thought would be possible.
"We thought it was an incredible long shot, because we have such a new garden, but now we are talking about compost bins and building a sustainable curriculum," he said.
With the money, Mcindoe will purchase ladybug houses, butterfly feeders, books, tools, seeds, plant starts, red wigglers for the compost bin, materials to construct an indoor garden and rain-saver barrels, among other things.
The sustainable curriculum will encompass the United Nations recommendations for community gardens, Buchanan said.
"The first is economics, with the purchase of plants and seeds; the second is social justice, where we share our bounty and our tools with others; and the third one is recycling and composting, to show we are taking care of the environment."
All the leftover food scraps from the center's cafeteria will be composted, he added.
Community is of vital importance to the center, he noted, saying that activities featuring the garden will draw in parents and children throughout the year.
"We [also] want to reach out to senior citizens and invite them to come to the garden; they have skills that these children have not had an opportunity to learn," he said.
In addition, kindergarten teacher Mcindoe has partnered with Jennifer Goodrich, a sixth grade teacher at Kraxberger Middle School, whose students will be "sustainable buddies" by building planters and working with the younger children in the garden.
Gladstone residents Lawrence Conchin and Bobby Binder donated plant starts to the garden to get the raised beds going this past summer, Buchanan said, adding that Healthy Start instructor Wendy Hays planted the pumpkins with very young children and parent Tina Marquez and her son Kai watered the garden every week.
Buchanan added, "We plan to purchase pots so we can have portable gardens [out back]. Donations of used pots and new plant starts or seeds would be much appreciated. One of our goals is to communicate to all our community members [and children] that gardening can be enjoyed whether or not they own land."
In an e-mail interview, Ami Krishan, associate director of Gardenburger, said the organization chose the center to receive the garden grant, because "it shares Gardenburger's goal of creating an improved quality of life for residents in its community by giving them access to fresh fruits and vegetables. [The center] will do just that by using its grant money to create a community garden to teach young children to be respectful of nature and good caretakers of the earth."
Krishan added, "Gardenburger's mission is to make food that matters to people and their world, and community gardens across the country share this same philosophy. That's why Gardenburger chose to support community gardens.[We] came up with the idea in order to provide necessary funding to 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations looking to create or maintain a community gardening project in their neighborhoods."
Gladstone Center for Children and Families
18905 Portland Ave.
Gladstone 97207-2146To donate pots, plant starts, seeds or other gardening supplies, call Amanda Mcindoe at 503-496-3939.