OTTAWA — Fourth graders at Ottawa Elementary are learning teamwork skills and about growing their own food by participating in the school’s Garden Club.
The club in its second year kicked off on May 21 where students planted green beans, carrots and peas in the garden that is located on the south side of the school. Tomato plants also were planted that were donated by Don Barnhart, a vocational agriculture teacher at Leipsic High School, who is the adviser for the high school’s Future Farmers of America program.
Ottawa Elementary students will meet every other Wednesday morning for an hour this summer to weed and water the garden. The club will meet through September so the students have an opportunity to take care of the garden when school is in session.
Fourth-grade teacher Nicole Ruhe started the club last year when Tractor Supply Company, Ottawa, provided a $250 gift card to get the club started. Funds were used to purchase gardening tools, gloves and seeds for last year’s garden.
Last year tomatoes, green beans, several varieties of gourds and cucumbers were planted. A shed is on site that stores the club’s gardening tools, watering cans and gloves.
“I’m hoping the students learn about teamwork, responsibility and how to take care of the earth,” Ruhe said. She said last year the gourds were ready last fall and students were allowed to take them home.
In addition to planting, the students will learn about the importance of composting where a compost area has been set up for the garden.
Fourth-grader Everett Croy, whose grandfather owns Croy Mowing, said he has grown up around gardening and his family plants cabbage, flowers and strawberries.
“It’s fun to grow your own food. I hope to learn how to make the plants grow fast and I’m glad we can grown our own healthy food,” Croy said.
Calvarie Fox, fourth grader, has experience with planting a garden as her family has planted a raspberry bush and flowers.
“Gardening is fun and gets me out of the house. I hope to learn how to plant things and see the seeds grown,” Fox said.
The club held a fundraiser on May 18 at TSC in Ottawa where they sold hot dogs, chips, baked goods, pop, Gatorade and water when $500 was raised for the club. The schools Parents Teacher Organization also contributed $500 for the club.
Plans are to make 10 more garden plots to include with the existing two plots and to purchase a tiller. Hohenbrink Excavating, Ottawa, donated the topsoil for the garden.
“I come from a farming family and I am married to a farmer and farming is in my blood,” Ruhe said. She said she wants the students to experience what it is like to see a seed grow and harvest the produce.
Principal Audrey Beining said the gardening club provides students with hands-on experience.
“Gardening is a skill that not a lot of students have the opportunity to do and it teaches them about responsibility,” Beining said. She said it would be great if the harvest could be used in the cafeteria so students can see the products of their work.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.