Garden Grows From Summer School Enrichment

The Tongue River Elementary School garden provides instruction as well as lunches for faculty and students. (Photo by Pat Blair)

Teachers and students at Tongue River Elementary School pick fresh vegetables for their lunches, and students learn not only science lessons but math and language as well.

The Tongue River Elementary School's garden serves a variety of purposes. Gwen Kepley, who's a University of Wyoming master gardener and in charge of the project, said she thinks every human being should know how to garden.

She said gardening provides tremendous benefits, both physically and mentally.

This is the school's 14th year for the garden, which started in 2005 as a summer school enrichment program in a garden in the back yard of a teacher.

In 2010, the garden was moved to a plot behind the fire station in Ranchester. In 2017-2018, the garden was given a place on the grounds of the new Tongue River Elementary School.

Kepley said the garden plot and science center is a dream come true for her and science teacher Meg Maze. Maze now incorporates the garden in her science classes, teaching students about plants, pollinators – such as bees – decomposers, birds and other insects.

Students of all ages are involved, from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Kepley said there are some people who donate plants to the school, but most of the plants are raised in the garden from seed, and that's also part of the science curriculum.

Kepley said students start planting seeds in the garden's greenhouse as soon as weather permits in the spring, then transplant to outdoors during the last two weeks of school. Activities continue with a garden club during the summer and regular classes again in the fall.

Kepley said Maze takes her science classes into the garden for studies until harvest time is over and garden clean-up starts.

She added last year, the science room was packed with produce during harvest week.

The garden includes apple trees. (Photo by Pat Blair)
Pumpkins nestle, waiting to be picked. (Photo by Pat Blair)
Signs identify some of the vegetables and flowers. (Photo by Pat Blair)