Like many things, COVID-19 delayed the building of a special educational project at Merrillville Intermediate School earlier this year, so staff and volunteers took advantage of the warm fall weather to get it started.
The group created a garden, installing four raised beds, filling them with soil, and laying mulch. In addition, garlic and strawberries, both hearty enough to make it through the winter, were planted so there will be something to harvest when the students return.
According to Nichole Perez, MIS K-6 college & career readiness counselor, the garden, which was made possible by grant funding from the Merrillville Education Foundation, will provide a new component to the students’ science classes and help support the agriculture and natural sciences career pathway for students.
“It will give students a taste of nature and gardening, and they will learn more about where their food comes from,” Perez said. “Teachers will be able to take them outside and show them firsthand how their learning applies to life.”
She said sixth graders, especially, learn about plant structure, plant life and photosynthesis.
“We are excited to begin our journey to bring more real-world experiences for our students with the MIS garden project,” said Principal Kara Bonin. “We want to extend learning outside of the classroom integrating skills of problem-solving, community building, and academic standards. We plan to start small with a gardening club and build to integrating this into our curriculum for all students.”
Though Perez said they spent a good chunk of the funding received on the project, there are leftover funds for items like hoses, watering cans and more plants. Ultimately, she said their vision includes even more raised beds and fencing.
In planning this project, Perez said she was introduced to many supportive volunteers, including people at the Purdue Extension and the Lake County Master Gardeners who all either helped or advised on the project.
With their guidance, there may be future opportunities to plant a pollinator garden to help with the crops and additional gardens for Merrillville schools that don’t have the land for gardening, she said.