Sowing seeds at Sawyer

Grade schoolers grow plants inside classroom

These are marigolds grown from seed by third-graders at K.I. Sawyer Elementary School. The students also decorated the clay pots for MotherÕs Day. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

K.I. SAWYER — Does food taste better when you’ve grown it? Ask a student at K.I. Sawyer Elementary School.

Linda Wagner’s third-grade classroom has been putting in fruit and vegetable waste in its vermicomposting worm bin throughout the school year, with the worms decomposing the scraps.

But what good would it be if only the worms enjoyed this project?

In February, students decorated clay pots for Mother’s Day, with the fertile soil from the vermi-worm bin put into the pots where marigold seeds were planted.

“They take care of the plants pretty much themselves,” said Wagner, who acknowledged having to show the kids things like snipping off dead leaves.

The youngsters kept the plants watered, measuring them as they grew. The finished products then reached their destiny as gifts for their mothers on their special day.

The project, though, wasn’t just about making Mother’s Day gifts. It was to teach students how to nurture plants.

The students had been growing plants such as lettuce, radishes and a sweet potato inside the classroom, and on Tuesday, tasted some of their lettuce in salads prepared by visiting Michigan State University Extension educator Rebecca Krans and Master Gardener Lisa Johnson, who brought in other types of lettuce and radishes to add to the salads.

One of those educators, Rebecca Krans, marveled at the lettuce the kids grew.

“Just imagine if you had a big patch of this,” Krans said.

Third-grader Sophia Bess tasted one of those salads, which were drenched in vinegar-and-oil dressing.

“I just really like leaves, but these were kind of spicy,” she said.

A little cooking lesson was thrown in, with the class shown the difference between romaine and iceberg lettuce and how to remove the core of a head of the iceberg variety.

A Salad Shooter was used to make the salads.

“If you get too much water on the lettuce along with the dressing, what’s going to happen to it?” Krans asked the students.

They correctly determined it would become soggy.

The centrifugal force in the Salad Shooter, fortunately, was to remove that water.

Many hands went up after Johnson asked how many students were enjoying their salads, including two who said they had never tried that green dish.

“I know a lot of kids who say, ‘Oh, my gosh. There’s something green in there,’ and they won’t eat anything that has green in it,” Johnson said. “People won’t eat anything with green. It’s like they’re afraid of lettuce, afraid of salad, afraid of vegetables.

“You don’t know until you try, and it probably tastes even better because you made it.”

Fortunately, “green-o-phobia” didn’t make much of an appearance among Wagner’s students, who learned lettuce is easy to grow.

Wagner noted the students grew two types of lettuce as well as Swiss chard, spinach and radishes.

After they sampled their salads, the plan was to have the students install a cherry tomato plant in the school’s community garden. Sawyer first-graders were to plant onion sets while fifth-graders were to take part in a seed-planting activity.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.