There are many benefits of gardening, especially for young children. It can boost their mood and improve their focus. They learn about new fruits and vegetables, and the importance of healthy eating. They are able to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom, and it allows them to get a better understanding of the world around them.
“I like to watch the plants grow,” said Ellie Cluff, a fourth grader at Sonoma Ranch Elementary.
All students at Sonoma Ranch get to work in the campus community garden. It features six beds and one in-ground garden, enough for each grade level. Tasha Cerimeli, a speech language pathologist at the school, came up with the vision to expand the community garden. She received two grants, one from the Gilbert Education Foundation and the other through the DonorsChoose initiative. Cerimeli also collected several donations.
“I don’t think we would have been able to do it all without the money and donations,” she said.
Twice a year, students go out during the school day and work in their grade level’s garden bed. They get the chance to rake the soil, plant seeds and water the plants while a second group of students colors plant markers and pots. Sonoma Ranch students, with the help of Cerimeli, have planted cantaloupe, okra, beets, lettuce, jalapenos, basil, broccoli and cauliflower. While some students have no experience working in gardens outside of school, some do and they really enjoy the experience.
“I like nature,” said student Talon Maennche.
Gardening is something that Talon does at home with his dad. He loves having a garden at school and even seeing the little lizards that appear occasionally around the plants. Cerimeli wants to keep the gardening experience going for future Sonoma Ranch students. In order to cut costs, she harvests seeds from some of the veggies. The students also sell fruits and vegetables to their teachers to raise money.