Pumpkin seeds, potting soil and water covered a large work table in the art room of the Dunham School’s Lower School as God’s Gardeners, the school’s gardening club, gathered for its weekly meeting.
Club members plant and maintain two gardens at the school. The first, filled with green onions, lettuce and broccoli, is easily accessible to the Lower School. The second garden, near the McKay Academic Center, was built about a year ago. “Some of the students who maintain it got busy and asked if we could use it,” said Jennifer Erwin, learning assistant and moderator of God’s Gardeners.
The gardeners call their new garden the DSSG, or Dunham School Secret Garden, because it is tucked away in an area that is not adjacent to the Lower School. The secret garden is filled with herbs — basil, rosemary, marjoram and thyme.
“It is a very nicely built garden,” Erwin said. “Our kids were very excited to take it over.”
Erwin plans the hour session so the five members, ages 5 through 9, have activities inside and outside. “Because of the heat, they can’t stay outside all the time,” she said.
The children plant, tend, water and harvest the plants in the two gardens. “The food we harvest, we snack on,” Erwin said. The week before the children had tasted bell peppers and squash from the garden.
Outside activities are flexible. The children know what is needed in the garden and get right to work. Inside activities are much more structured and include one or two projects per meeting.
During a late October meeting, Erwin showed the children how to make two pumpkin planters.
For the first one, the children removed the pulp from their pumpkins, leaving most of the seeds. They then filled the pumpkins with potting soil and watered carefully. They took the pumpkins home to watch the seeds sprout from the inside.
The second project was a pumpkin planter filled with pansies and snapdragons, which Erwin explained are cold weather plants that will last through the winter.
The children carefully removed the pulp and seeds from their pumpkins. Kayden Broussard, 8, collected the seeds to take home and roast. The children filled the pumpkins with potting soil and planted their plants.
Sisters Devyani Vij, 8, and Raveena Vij, 9, are second-year members of the club. They know a lot about gardening. “There are a lot of gardeners in our family,” Raveena said. One of their grandmothers is visiting from India. She helps the girls do some gardening at their home.
“Our other grandmother lives in New York on Long Island. The first thing she does when we get there is that she sets up fun things to do with her gardener,” Raveena said.
“Why is God in the name of God’s Gardeners?” asked Selah Baamonde, at 5, the club’s youngest member. Kaylee Thibodeaux, 7, quickly answers, “Because he created the garden.”
Erwin brings a wealth of knowledge to God’s Gardeners. Her parents were in the plant nursery business in Atlanta when she was growing up.
The club meets once a week through the school year. In the summer, Dunham holds at least two camp sessions on gardening. “I’ll do anything to make gardening interesting for the kids,” Erwin said. “It’s fun to see them learn.”
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