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Extension > Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners > Life without gardening? I don't think so!


On this blog, we share regular updates about the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership between Extension's Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Bruce Vento Elementary School.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Life without gardening? I don't think so!

By: Kirsten Saylor

Gardens are "living classrooms" and really upend what we have come to think of as a classroom — a space engineered by people to be effective learning spaces. In the garden, Nature is the co-teacher, and sometimes she just does what she does. I can't get the tomatoes to grow faster or slower or stop the lettuce from going to seed. I can't stop the rain from falling when I want to bring kids out into the garden. I can't get the weeds to listen to me when I ask them to stop growing into the garden beds or taking over the mulch.

headshot of Kirsten Saylor
Photo: Kirsten Saylor/LinkedIn
As the new school garden coordinator at the Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul, I have an interesting job. Besides co-teaching with Nature, I work on integrating the garden into the school's curriculum, promoting healthy eating and access to healthy foods, and identifying collaborations that will work to create and maintain an educational garden space.

As the newbie, my inquiry has been like a search and find mission. I've talked with many different stakeholders: school teachers, staff and administration; people from different school district departments, parents, community-based and youth-based groups in St. Paul.

But interest and support for gardens can be found outside these circles. Accenture, a global professional services company with an office in Minneapolis, contacted me to see if there was a garden project where employees could volunteer to help add to the garden.

group of three people standing in front of sunflowers
Thanks to the Accenture team!
Originally, benches were considered, but after a number of discussions, we decided to go with giving the garden a border that would 1) keep mulch sliding and soil eroding onto the sidewalk, and 2) really make the garden look more "sophisticated."

Five volunteers came and they kicked butt. I had never put in a border before and didn't realize just how much time and energy it would take. Not only did the volunteers remain focused on the hard work, they concentrated on doing quality work.

five people kneeling on grass and dirt
Volunteers engrossed in building the garden borders.

Besides serving environmental and aesthetic purposes, the border doubles as a balance beam and bench. We've used it as a pathway to slow down and focus their attention as they enter this living classroom. And it has also served as a place for kids to sit and contemplate.

The border is so popular that Bruce Vento staff have asked for Accenture volunteers to come back and help put a border on the other side of the garden. We're hoping to have them back during the school day — students want to lend a hand!


Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.

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