Welcome Back to the Garden Utah Street!

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This will be my third year working in the Utah Street Zalin Smith Community Garden, so I was very excited to go back to classes at the beginning of September! On my first day back many kids came by the garden to say hi and to find out when it would be their turn for garden class. I was so nice to be reminded that so many students still love and appreciate the garden.

For our first six weeks of class, I’ll be having the ETK and special education students. One of the best traditions we’ve started at Utah Street School is our garden buddies program with the local high school, Mendez. The special education class at Mendez maintains a beautiful garden and their campus and volunteered to come partner with our younger students at Utah Street to learn urban gardening. Each Friday the Mendez HS special education class takes a field trip to Utah Street garden classes to partner with the younger students as we prune, plant, and pick! The younger kids love having the older students help us out each week asking, “Where are our friends?!” as the high school mentors are walking over to our campus.

I started out the first class back with garden introductions. Thanks to our plant manager, we have a newly cleared circle of stumps in the back of our garden. We sat in a circle and shared our names and favorite garden fruit or vegetable. I then started teaching the kids about seeds. We looked at the anatomy of a seed and observed soybeans, taking note of the seed coat, food storage, and embryo. We then planted our own seeds in plastic bags with moist cotton balls to watch them sprout. At the end of class, we all tasted sorrel and basil and compared sour and sweet tastes.

The following week we followed up with our sprouts and learned how a plant continues growing. We did a little garden dancing, kicking our feet out to represents the roots that grow out of the sprout. We threw our hands up to a point for the stem, out in a triangle for the leaves, made a pretty flower face, made a big circle for the fruit, and lastly held up our fists for the new seed. We then looked out our chili pepper plant noting the stem, leaves, and fruit. We pulled off a couple chili peppers along with some garden tomatoes to make a pico do gallo. While half the class prepared the recipe, the other half mixed the soil of one of our beds to prepare it for planting peas. We all came back together to eat our salsa and say goodbye til next week to our garden buddies!

Special thanks to Mendez High School, Ms. Olivas, and all of the students in our garden buddies program for all your help in the garden 🙂 Stay tuned to hear about how we will compost our beds, plant chard, and taste more delicious garden foods!

-Ranger Claire

Claire Heddles

Claire is a researcher and sociologist who grew up in Tucson, AZ. She loves being outside and sharing the joy of growing with the kids at Utah Street School.

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