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LOHS Political Action Seminar students get hands-on lessons while building a community garden

They haven't planted seeds yet, but students in Andrew Duden's Political Action Seminar class have learned many lessons from their gardening experience - and it is not just lessons about how much to water or how close together to plant seeds. The students are learning the meaning of sweat equity as they build their garden from the ground up with hopes of growing food to share with the community.

It all started last spring with the building of compost bins for the garden for Life Skills students. The compost bins didn't get completed in time to use before school ended.

'The kids came back in the fall and initiated a composting program,' Duden said. 'They began collect compost scraps at lunch and then they got excited.'

A small group of PAS students formed a planning team with the intent of using that compost in their own food-producing garden.

'It is one of our school goals to reduce energy use by 10 percent and become more green,' said Maddiey Ellis, a junior on the planning team. 'Actually, it's a district-wide goal. We hadn't really started yet. We had the compost bins but felt we had a little catching up to do. We wanted to help elementary schools start gardens, but Mr. Duden said, 'You need to lead by example. You need to make a garden here first.''

The team, made up of Ellis, MacKenzie Spiering, Josh Nudelman and Beth Vial, developed a plan, paying close attention to how a garden could meet the school district's goals and Oregon State University Social Science standards. They applied for a grant from the Laker Club, which generously funded the project. Not only did the garden have to be as sustainable as possible in terms of composting and watering, the students wanted it to be wheelchair accessible.

A patch of ground overlooking the tennis courts was selected as the garden site.With help from employees at Home Depot, the students determined what they would need for materials and then recruited family and friends to assist in construction of the garden.

With the help of Bill Ellis, Maddiey's dad, postholes were dug and fence posts installed. Students learned to handle power tools, use shovels, drills and wheelbarrows and put their back into their work. Construction began just two weeks ago; class periods and weekends find many volunteers working in the garden.

'It's definitely a hands-on learning lab,' Duden said. 'We are a little behind schedule … isn't that usually the case in construction? We had originally wanted to have the construction completed by May 19.'

And who will tend the garden over the summer?

LOHS assistant principal Cindy Schubert will request school board members' approval of giving students a half credit for helping care for the garden this summer, as well as a half credit for assisting with establishing an aquaponics lab with Jeff Goodrich over the summer. Duden is optimistic the requests will be approved.

'She feels confident we will get the OK, and then I'll enroll about 15 students to staff the garden this summer,' Duden said.

Duden and the garden planning team have ambitions to add more green features to the garden such as a rain harvest watering system and a greenhouse.

'The big goal for me is to return in 10 years and see that the garden is still here,' Spiering said. 'That others have taken up the project and kept it up.

The long-term goal is to use the garden produce in cooking classes and have it used by food service. Sharing the produce with the community and selling it or products made from it are possibilities, too.

Duden said donations of cash, plants, material or labor to the project would be greatly appreciated. To donate, email Duden at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.