It's Easy Being Green Team

Valley Elementary students learn food production from ground up

June 2, 2011
Frederick News-Post
By Marge Neal

Valley Elementary School’s Green Team got a glimpse at good green practices Wednesday when group members toured Musket Ridge Golf Club’s kitchen facilities to learn about its new zero-food-waste initiative.

At Musket Ridge, executive chef Kyle Roberson has been implementing a progressive series of recycling efforts, beginning with the collection of glass, plastic, aluminum and cardboard, and advancing to the food-waste effort.

On Wednesday, Valley students helped put in place the final aspect of the club’s recycling efforts that brings everything full circle, by helping build a vegetable and herb garden that will soon provide produce for the club’s kitchen.

The group of about 13 club members and several parent volunteers along with teacher and club adviser Mary Cooley also had lunch at the clubhouse, complete with a salad made mostly from produce from Valley’s vegetable garden.

Thanks to a grant from the Rock ’n Renew Foundation — provided by Musket Ridge — Green Team members have enjoyed an ecology education program this spring provided by foundation founder Jonny Dubowsky.

Dubowsky assisted with an Earth Day event at Valley and was glad to see his young environmentalists again. “How are all of our Earth Day plantings doing?” he asked the students. They assured him all is well.

Dubowsky said the effort at Musket Ridge takes green efforts to the next level.

“It would be one thing to use the food waste and create compost — we could spread it along the flower beds,” Dubowsky said while the students were gathered outside near the piles of newly created compost. “But we’re going to take it to the next step and create a kitchen garden for Chef Kyle. We will use food waste to grow even more food.”

Dubowsky invited the students to walk around the small garden plot to determine variations in sunlight and then make recommendations on where to put which plants for optimal growth.

Students were quickly on the ground, planting tomatoes and a variety of herbs, including mint and parsley.

Fourth-grader Danny Balinger, who planted tomatoes, said he enjoys gardening and has one at home.

Sarah Buckley, also a fourth-grader, put in a couple of pots of herbs, despite having a broken arm confined to a cast.

She said she hasn’t let the cast keep her from doing anything she wants.

Dubowsky and Roberson also demonstrated a rain-barrel system that was set up to collect rainwater from the building’s rain spouts.

The Green Team hopes to add rain barrels and composting to its school garden, according to parent volunteer Kim Narayan, who heads up the garden effort.

Planting the garden with things that will grow while school is still in session is a challenge, Narayan said.

“We like to plant so we can have a harvest before the end of the school year, and then we like to have something waiting for them when they return in the fall,” she said. “This year, we’re going to plant Indian corn, and the hope is to decorate the school with it.”

This spring, students grew mixed greens, lettuce, onions, mint, chives, parsley, snap peas and flowers, Narayan said.

The club hopes to add what is known as a Native American three sisters garden, with corn, beans and squash, she said.

Valley has had a garden for about seven years, and this is the second year for the Green Team, an after-school club, Cooley said.

While the club helps plant and maintain the garden, the entire school benefits, according to Narayan.

“Our goal was to have an outdoor learning environment for any teacher who wants to participate,” she said.

The science curriculum includes units on seeds and plant growth, and the garden is a perfect teaching tool for that, she said.

Growing produce has given many students a better appreciation for vegetables their parents sometimes struggle to get them to eat.

“One of the most rewarding parts about this is to see what they’re willing to try because they grew it themselves,” Narayan said.