Twisp, WA: Community garden connects children with community
“Let’s circle up,” the teacher said, and quick little feet kicked up small puffs of dirt tromping across the small lot the town of Twisp had designated for the project.
The students, ranging from ages 6 to 13, held hands that were either in gloves or quite dirty because they’d been digging rocks, lots of rocks, little rocks and big rocks, out of the ground.
Now they were asked to turn themselves into vegetables.
“Spinach,” said one.
“Radish,” said another.
“OK,” said the teacher, “now I want Spinach to touch Radish.”
“Onion,” said the next kid, and he then had to link hands with Radish.
When Artichoke and Corn and Broccoli, and two dozen other garden plants, had themselves declared, the children had to think about what they had in common now that they belonged to the plant kingdom.
“We all have leaves.”
“We all grow in soil.”
“We all need water.”
And, said Methow Valley Community School director and teacher Brooke Lucy in an interview afterwards, there will be a need for planting and transplanting and weeding and thinning, of course. As for the harvest, anyone will be welcome to grab a little fresh food because it’s a community garden on town property.
“The Town of Twisp initiated the Community Garden Project, and approached the school to be a partner,” Lucy said. “A lot of people contributed to the project. Doug Potter, who’s a local builder, and Tess Hoke, who’s an expert gardener, were the primary workers to get this going.”
The project includes a 20- by 40-foot greenhouse on the edge of what locals have come to call “The Common.”
For the school, “the project is a good fit because part of our philosophy is to connect the children with the community,” Lucy said.
Founded in 1995, the Community School is an independent private institution not connected in any way with the public school system or a church.
Taught by four instructors, the 30 students are “multi-age,” Lucy explained. “It’s the old one-room schoolhouse concept. The parents enroll their children here because they appreciate the value of community spirit.”
Housed in two rooms of the former Twisp school-turned Community Center that’s now also the home of the senior center, the library, and the PUD office, the Community School makes Friday its Outdoor Education Day.
“The garden project is very exciting for the children,” Lucy said. “A garden is food, so there is an immediate connection. After the ground preparation today, we looked at seed catalogs — every child envisions the project differently. We’ll have lots of fun.”
Amelia Hanron, 11, wholeheartedly agreed with that. “We’ll plant a whole bunch of stuff. We’ll plant it in rows.”
Amelia picked sunflower as her favorite garden plant. “It was the first thing that popped into my mind.”
Doing ground prep, Amelia said, “was hard work. It was hard taking out the rocks.”
But Bodie Cabiyo, 11, liked that chore. “I didn’t like to shovel the manure. It smells really gross.”
Bodie said that he enjoyed digging up rocks because it’s similar to what he’d like to do when he grows up — archeology.
In fact, the children found more than rocks in their digging: a key, a bone, and a very old battery.
Lucy, who’s married to a local farmer, summed up that the garden exercise “shifts the energy” of the school’s children and helps them “become aware of the cycles of life.”
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