Students at Three Rivers School in Channahon, along with children enrolled in Channahon Park District day camps this summer, will get the opportunity to dig in the rich soil to plant, water, weed and harvest vegetables this spring and summer in a joint project of the District 17 school, the park district and the University of Illinois Extension master gardeners program.
It’s the first time the three governmental entities are coming together for the project, and Three Rivers Principal Susan Kavich is excited about the possibilities.
“In addition to everything they are going to learn about gardening,” Kavich said, “I think they will also get a better appreciation for our environment and all of the aspects of growing your own food naturally.”
Three Rivers sixth-grade teacher Nicole Gubbins and fifth-grade teacher Kathy Hibler will start the gardening project with their students in late March, planting the seeds in pots inside the school. They will learn what vegetables grow well in our area, what kind of potting soil they like, how much sunshine and water it takes to grow the seedlings and even a little about nutrition and why eating fresh vegetables is good for them.
At the end of the school year, the students will hand their little plants over to Jackie O’Hara, program coordinator at the park district.
The plants will be transplanted into raised garden beds just outside the swimming pool’s fence. O’Hara wasn’t sure of the exact site at this writing.
Then, the park district’s summer day camp students will try their hand at growing the greens. The camps involve students from kindergarten up through high school. They will be able to spend the summer watering and weeding the garden and harvesting the vegetables when they are ready.
The Three Rivers students can come and visit the garden anytime during the summer, as well, O’Hara said, to water or weed or pick some produce to take home or sample right there.
“This is something I’m passionate about,” O’Hara said. “Kids learning about healthy eating and getting in and digging and learning where our food comes from.”
She thinks they will plant tomatoes, cucumbers and maybe some beans, among other veggies.
“If we can show them how to grow a radish, how to eat a radish and even some fun things to do with a radish like carving it to make a rose,” she said, “then you can instill a willingness for them to try new fruits and vegetables. ... Instead of eating chips for lunch, you can eat carrots. And we’ll teach them why you would want to eat carrots.”
Some of the Three Rivers students who will be involved in the project, along with other Channahon children, met recently at the park district to talk about gardening.
Katelyn Bucciarelli said she’s gardened flowers and vegetables at her grandmother’s house and enjoys doing it. She said she enjoys eating tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.
“I like the pretty flowers and the tasty vegetables,” she said.
Maggie Kapple said her family has a flower garden, and they used to raise vegetables. She likes tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers and zucchini.
“I helped weed them and made sure they got watered,” Kapple said of her family’s garden.
Gubbins, a gardener herself, said there are many lessons her students will be able to learn from the project.
“Any time you can teach them the connection between what’s in the refrigerator and the store and where it comes from,” she said. “I think sometimes we forget that.”
The program is part of a three-year Will County Partners for Healthy Gardening grant.