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MPH Students Planting Their Roots

New garden gives students opportunity to grow fresh food, add up close examples of class lessons

AJ Manderichio (DeWitt) – Trilok Reddy and a group of students stand outside a compost pile, excitedly finding various pieces of rotted fruit. Each moldy orange and smelly banana comes out of the pile for display.

They’re not playing in the school’s dumpsters out back. These students are among several helping to grow a garden at Manlius Pebble Hill School, one that will serve many purposes. Take, for example, the compost pile. Students pack the vegetable beds with compost in place of fertilizer and pesticides.

It’s also helped eliminate trash around the school.

“We’ve already cut our trash in half,” Reddy says, “from four of those huge garbage bags you see in the dining hall to about two of them.”

An Idea Travels Across The Coast

MPH science teacher Pam Stewart decided to start the garden after consulting with the school’s Green Committee and Health and Wellness Committee.

“Both committes had been talking about different aspects of fresh food, local food, organic food, and so we were on a parallel path,” says Stewart. ”We found out we were both thinking the same thing and we said ‘Let’s make this happen.’”

Stewart formed the program around the Edible Schoolyard, an organization based out of California. It provides teachers with a plan to grow and garden and teach students the benefits of local farming.

There isn’t much green in the MPH garden yet. Students recently planted a few vegetables in the beds, and Stewart believes those will grow and be harvested in November. During the winter, students will use a greenhouse to grow several different vegetables. Outdoor plants will have cold frames around them, and use the heat from the building to prevent them from dying.

Eat What You Grow

Students won’t just use the garden in class. Stewart wants the products grown in the garden to be used in the school cafeteria.

“We should be able to hopefully get enough salad makings and produce for at least a meal a week,” she says.

Students are welcoming the new addition to their lunches.

“I think all of my friends and I are really excited to have fresh food and to see the impact we’ve made growing fresh food,” says seventh-grader Marguerite Curtis.

“The more fresh something is, the better taste is has.” seventh-grader Lilly Maresco says, “I think it’s pretty cool that we were actually watching things grow and seeing how they develop.”

Stewart believes the lessons from this garden will last far beyond the classroom.

“When you’ve actually seen what you’ve grown and how much you can grow and what it tastes like when you get it,” she says, ”I think that will be enough of a lesson for the kids.”

See the video coverage here.