Community-Based Gardening at North Fork Elementary
by Katie Wolpert
Little North Fork Elementary had a problem: they lost their state funding for the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables program. The school, located in our backyard in Pendleton County, WV, reached out to us when they got the news to see if we could donate money to buy fresh produce for their students this year. We can’t do that, we said, but perhaps we could go a step further and find a way to help you supply your own fresh produce.
Thus began a conversation that led to an exciting after-school program that is starting this week. Experience Learning is supplying all the materials for constructing raised beds in the school yard and instructor time two days each week for an after school program. Local experts are contributing consulting and educational services.
As a registered substitute teacher in Pendleton County, Experience Learning staff member Isabelle Eastham already had clearance to take the lead directly on this project. She presented the program to parents at the school’s open house and the response has been huge.
Armed with ideas from our Community Action Professional Development Workshop this summer, Isabelle is leading a group of students on a quest to solve their school’s problem. She will guide them through a process of identifying issues around the practicality and sustainability of their new raised bed project. How will this benefit our school? How do we make it a sustainable project? What do we want to eat? What do we want to grow? The kids will research problems and solutions, find ways to involve their community and pass their knowledge along to the teachers and students at their school.
Isabelle hopes that this program will engage students in their community and their own well-being as well as providing a service to that community in the form of quality after-school programming. She will work with the school’s Next Generation curriculum, pulling out lessons and elaborating on projects that the teachers already have in place.
Down the road, she hopes that the garden project will continue without her guidance. But the after-school program will remain and as needs and funding opportunities evolve, they will take on another exciting challenge next year.