Last week, Master Gardener volunteers from Arapahoe County helped 274 students at Clayton Elementary in grades K-6 plant a vegetable garden. The volunteers shared an outdoor lesson describing the parts of a plant and their functions.
Students planted their plots with the vegetables they previously selected in class. The crops at the Clayton Garden include salad greens and edible flowers, ingredients for salsa – tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro; cucumbers, summer and winter squash, and pumpkins. Plants for pollinators were also added to the garden.
Throughout the summer, the Master Gardener volunteers will help teachers, students and community members maintain the vegetable beds and troubleshoot any problems. Each month volunteers will share a lesson on a hot garden topic.
The school has had a community garden for 10 years, managed jointly with Denver Urban Gardens, but Clayton’s teachers needed additional education and support to increase its impact. "Our teachers are thrilled that the Master Gardeners will be providing some education this year,” said Lorraine Cahill of Clayton Elementary School. “Many of them have expressed how little they know about gardening and how appreciative they are of the support."
With subject-area expertise and extensive experience delivering citizen and youth science education, CSU Extension is filling a community need in programming in underserved communities. Research shows that participation in school gardens contributes to improved academic and economic outcomes.
“Youth and community development work is very important to Arapahoe County, and we want to see thriving communities and support a high quality of life here,” said Tim Aston, Director of CSU Extension. “This program provides much-needed, hands-on experiential learning and a creative way to engage local neighborhood communities during a time when we’ve all been cooped up and are ready to get back outside again. The pandemic has highlighted the economic fragility of many households, and equipping communities with this knowledge gives them the resources to address food insecurity and increase their self-sufficiency.”
Clayton Elementary is a K-6 school in the Englewood School District with a student body comprised of more than 75% at-risk children. Additional youth gardening curriculum modules will be added in the second year of the pilot program.
This work supplements the support CSU Extension already provides to students in greenhouses at Cherry Creek High School and Littleton High School. Arapahoe County CSU Extension Office, which is part of the Open Spaces Department, is a trusted resource locally and throughout Colorado, known for providing education and programs that safeguard health, increase livelihood, and enhance wellbeing.
For information about Arapahoe County CSU Extension programs, visit https://arapahoe.extension.colostate.edu/.