An Eau Claire middle school is using gardening to help students learn and grow

Published: May. 21, 2022 at 8:07 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - A garden at a middle school in Eau Claire is hoping to grow more than just plants. It’s aiming to create a space for students to learn and sprout.

Eau Claire’s Northstar Middle School is laying down the roots for an “edible” classroom.

“What we did is we invited a few of our community members, so our SRO, our student resource officer, parent volunteers, and students, of course, to come and help us finish up our garden fence,” Northstar special education teacher Sarah Redofrd said.

Northstar already has an indoor garden.

“We have hydroponic gardens inside of our school where we’re growing cherry tomatoes, we’re growing herbs, we’re growing lavender, basil, dill,” Redofrd said.

But Redford wanted to be able to bring class outside the four walls of a traditional classroom.

“One thing that I know that helps me is just getting my hands in the dirt, especially if I’m feeling a little anxious about something. I just want to I want to be part of it, just be part of the nature outside, really,” Redford said. “And so I think kids can really thrive from that.”

Right now the edible classroom is an after-school club, but Redford is hoping it will one day be used as a learning tool while also helping students grow.

Sixth-grade teacher Andrea Benedict says she’s already seen her students embrace the garden.

“I saw kids that were maybe very quiet in the classroom coming out here and like directing where these big six-by-six boards were going,” Benedict said. “And it was just so fun to see the different skills they have, the different passions they have, and the different leadership roles.”

Redford wants the garden to be a safe space for those who might not fit into other activities like sports. She also hopes it will be a place to help students with their mental health.

“I’m not a professional in the way of mental health. However, as a person who suffers from an anxiety disorder, I know what helps me. So maybe we can help kids in that way because a lot of them have been suffering since COVID,” Redford said. “And so that was really my big push, is they need something more and what can we give them.”

Redford says regardless of who you are and what you’re background is, food can bring people together.

She also says the edible classroom committee is working to use the garden to create a harvest festival to bring the students and community together even more.

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