A hands-on, dirt-covered education

May 2, 2024

As the weather turns warmer, students at Wareham Elementary School are beginning to plant spring crops as part of a food education program.

The elementary school’s STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – program is teaching children to farm as part of a partnership with the Marion Institute, a non-profit organization that supports health through nutrition.

“We are learning how to grow food in this class,” said Nate Sander, an educator with the Marion Institute.

“I get good excitement, good enthusiasm,” said Sander. “I think kids retain a lot of knowledge, because they’re working with their hands.”

In the sunshine of Friday, April 26, Wareham Elementary School students worked in garden beds set up behind the school planting kale, cilantro and radishes.

Students also worked with logs inoculated with mushroom spawn, which will grow mushrooms.

One student, Aiden, said he learned plants need fertilizer to grow.

“I learned that you can’t move the animals in the dirt while doing the planting,” said another student, Elana.

That didn’t stop a third student, Riley, who said she wanted to hold the earthworms.

Students planted radishes that day, and will be able to pick them when fully grown before the school year ends in June, Sander said.

However, planting doesn’t just take place in the springtime. Students work in the garden beds year round. Summer program students plant crops including potatoes, while students plant garlic in the fall.

When they’re not outside, students are learning about farming in the classroom, with their gardening work integrated with their in-classroom learning.

“The students have loved it,” said STEAM teacher Elizabeth Hayes. She added that students constantly ask when Nate is coming back and when they’ll get to go out into the garden.