Lake Oswego Highs community garden teaches skills and responsibility

by: STAFF PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE - Left, Madelynn Ellis, a senior at Lake Oswego High this fall, is one of 11 students tending the school's garden this summer. The garden was a project she spearheaded in her Political Action Seminar class last year.  Below, pumpkins will be ready to sell in the fall, giving the community an opportunity to have a special LOHS jack o' lantern.Lake Oswego High School social studies teacher Andrew Duden added a new class this summer to the list he is qualified to teach: sustainable gardening.

And since when is it necessary for a social studies teacher to understand gardening? Since last spring, when Madelynn Ellis urged other students in Duden’s Political Action Seminar class to build a community garden.

Concerned about hunger and being a good steward of the environment, she wanted to grow food for use in the school cafeteria and by the community. With a grant from the Laker club, last spring Ellis and a small band of fellow students prepared a patch of ground overlooking the tennis courts for the school’s garden.

Knowing the garden would need tending over the summer, Duden urged assistant principal Cindy Schubert to seek approval from the school board to give students a half credit for helping care for the garden this summer. Approval was granted and in June, 11 students including Ellis, two other seniors and eight sophomores enrolled in a summer PAS class developed by Duden.

He also enrolled in a sustainable gardening class so he could better guide the students in the endeavor.

The team met frequently at the start of summer to finish building the raised beds, erect a fence to keep deer and raccoons out and then planted the garden, including tomatoes, onions, pickling cucumbers, squash and pumpkins, peppers, lettuce, herbs of many varieties, beans and carrots.

When the construction and planting were completed they each took responsibility for tending the garden a day each week.

“We keep a log of how much we water, what has been weeded, the soil temperature, wind, air temperature and other factors so we can tell what has happened since the last time we were here,” Ellis said.

“The garden is doing pretty well,” said Duden. “I just harvested eight pickle cucumbers and made two jars of pickles!” He flavored the pickles with dill grown in the garden.

Ellis said she was pleased with how the garden’s design had worked out and the full day sun was definitely a bonus.

“Watering is a chore,” she said. “Especially since someone stole a hose during the hot spell.”

Ellis is expecting a “huge yield” of tomatoes and she is looking forward to homemade salsa and tomato sauce from the garden. She said the community’s response to the students’ efforts with the garden has been very positive.

“I am amazed at how supportive people are and they are so willing to help out,” she said. “From parents and the community in general — they all appreciate what we have done.”

She said she often hears that people wish the garden had been built years earlier.

Marketing the food and expanding the program are projects she will tackle with other PAS students when the school year begins in a few weeks. She reminds the public that the garden is a community garden and all are welcome to visit.

“We will have pumpkins to sell in the fall,” she said. “So you can have a LOHS jack o’lantern!”

To reserve a pumpkin from the garden, donate materials or cash, contact Duden at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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