Fifth graders discover the fun of gardening

By Andrew Yurasek
Groveport Elementary, fifth grade teacher

Photos courtesy of Andy Yurasek
Pictured here at their garden plots in the Groveport Community Garden are, from left to right: Landon Yurasek, Avery Yurasek, Carson Waugh, Morgan Holbrook, Amber-Leigh Shelly, and “Mr. Y” (teacher Andy Yurasek).

“Kids! Go play outside!”

That’s what we were told…remember?

When we were kids we used to run and play for hours. We would ride bikes, play hide-and-seek, football, Wiffle Ball, basketball, and we would make slingshots or homemade bows and arrows. We went fishing and looked for critters. We would make tree forts. We did this every day, all the way up until the street lights came on. Then it was time to head home.

Oh yeah… one other thing… Most of our parents had gardens.

But then something happened. The year was 2007… and along came the first iPhone. It seems that since then, kids have spent less and less time running free outdoors.

So now what? How do we reconnect? Well, the fifth graders at Groveport Elementary had the chance to get out last May with the first ever Groveport Elementary 5th Grade Garden Club.

I am the fifth grade science teacher and I contacted the city of Groveport to ask about the possibility of securing a plot of garden space at the Groveport Community Garden in Heritage Park on Wirt Road. The city officials loved the idea. We ran the idea by our principal, April Bray, and she approved. And so it began!

Avery Yurasek with some of the plants grown by the students.

An invitation was sent, kids got approval and signed up! Soon, 22 fifth graders, – along with myself and my two kids and rookie fifth grade teacher Miss Wolf – met after school. We brainstormed ideas. We made lists of plants we’d like to grow and we walked over to check out the garden spot. (Along the way I can still hear one student telling her pals, “This is so much fun!”)

We met twice a week after school. Research was done. Plots were measured. Plans were drawn out. Then it was time to cultivate the soil. (Special thanks to Coast of Maine for donating 10 pounds of organic soil.)

After that, it was time to plant. We started with some seeds, but when Jerry Dill of Dill’s Greenhouse heard what we were doing, he wanted to help out as well. Jerry donated several flats of vegetable starters. So we planted those, too. (Students chatted about learning where our food actually comes from and said, ‘Wait, you mean carrots are roots? That grow down in the dirt?”)

Things started growing! But one thing happens at the end of every May, something that even teachers can’t do a darn thing about – school comes to an end. But does that mean the garden stops growing? Heck no! Over the summer, it was great seeing the kids and their families out at the garden. We went through a dry period in late June, but luckily, we tended the garden and made sure it didn’t dry up.

The other nice thing about the Groveport Community Garden is making new friends. The other folks with garden plots loved seeing what we were doing and what the kids were learning. They were always eager to help water if we couldn’t make it out for a few days.

The harvest continued all the way through October with our pumpkins and even the broccoli kept growing into November.

But then, Old Man Winter showed his face, and alas, the 2022 garden came to an end. We had a deep freeze the week of Christmas, but after that, the winter wasn’t too bad. (Many kids were disappointed by this. We only had one snow day this year.)

And look where we are now. The city of Groveport is donating two plots in the Community Garden again this year. So it’s time again to clear the land, condition the soil, and decide what to grow. The Groveport 5th Grade Garden Club is about to start its second year.

But what about you? Will you play outside this summer? Or maybe even grow a garden?

Hey, try it!

Andy Yurasek is a fifth grade science teacher at Groveport Elementary. He grew up a Boy Scout then went on to be the park naturalist at Deer Creek State Park for over 20 summers. He now lives with his two kids not too far from the Groveport Community Garden. He still likes to put his phone on airplane mode and disappear into the forest to play.

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