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VOL. 132 | NO. 203 | Thursday, October 12, 2017

CMDS Begins East Memphis Campus Garden

By Bill Dries

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The start of the school day was rainy, but the clouds gave way Tuesday, Oct. 10, for students at Christ Methodist Day School to assemble outside the East Memphis school and start a new learning garden.

Students from 2 years old through the sixth grade all had different tasks in the garden’s development. It is an initiative of the The Kitchen Community nonprofit organization, which in turn links the CMDS garden to 95 others at Shelby County Schools, the Achievement School District and Catholic Jubilee schools.

“We build a network of teachers in the schools in Memphis and they interact with each other … at our workshops where we teach them planting skills, harvesting skills, how to take care of their garden,” said Lisa Ellis, regional director of The Kitchen Community in Memphis.

Students at Christ Methodist Day School prepare to plant seeds in their new learning garden on campus. The garden, an initiative of The Kitchen Community, gives children a hands-on learning experience  of how food is produced and distributed, among other benefits. (Submitted)

The first order of business Tuesday in the curved white planters was burying water lines in the potting soil and then adding more potting soil, handled by the oldest students at the school – the sixth graders.

Teachers trained by The Kitchen Community in a garden curriculum that crosses subject lines were quizzed on what is ready to plant in the fall – squash is out because of the bugs it sometimes draws. Not apples, which require a lot more work than a school day can allow.

Groups of students planted carrots, lettuce, radishes and beets. Beside the planters on garden rocks, bricks had been painted to look like books, including “The Secret Garden.”

“You can teach art classes out here. You can teach reading classes out here. It’s an outdoor classroom,” Ellis said. “It’s just a great place to come learn and get the kids outside the classroom.”

School gardens have cropped up sporadically on isolated school campuses in the city for decades. Those efforts depended largely on benefactors to individual schools, but now garden classrooms are becoming built-in features of new schools and school additions in an era when critical-thinking skills cross subjects.

The day school is the first independent private school to install a garden in The Kitchen Community program, which began in Memphis with a garden at Maxine Smith STEAM Academy at the Fairgrounds in the 2014-2015 school year. Maxine Smith was the first middle school built on a science, technology, engineering, arts and math curriculum.

Christ Methodist Day School also has “a large focus” on STEAM, said Head of School Bryan Williams.

The new learning garden at Christ Methodist Day School is an initiative of The Kitchen Community, giving children a hands-on learning experience  of how food is produced and distributed, among other benefits. (Submitted)

“This will help us with the science of being able to let the kids see how plants grow from the seed to finish, and then how can you use those plants,” Williams said. “It will also let us engage the larger Memphis community through the network of the Kitchen Community gardens.”

Ellis said the partnership helps students learn about how food is produced and distributed.

Williams told the students the garden is more than plants.

“It’s not just a garden we get,” he said. “It’s the help we get and the education they bring along side of us to help us learn how to grow things in our garden, and how to tend the garden.”

While the older students know what comes next, the youngest students will no doubt keep a close eye on where they might have planted seeds and many will be surprised when they see something green emerging from the soil over time.

“Even our 2-year-olds can come out here and put their hands in the dirt and explore and learn and see things and watch growth happen,” Williams said. “We have a big emphasis on leadership and on service. It lets our students take ownership of taking care of the garden, making sure the weeds are picked and things are watered correctly so that it grows. It’s a lot of work. It’s not something you just plant today and leave.”

St. Agnes and St. Dominic will be the next campuses to get gardens as part of The Kitchen Community program.

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