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McBride Elementary School staff plans school garden revival

Work party planned for next weekend with help from volunteers

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Tish Hora, a St. Helens School District health services employee, points to an area where she plans to build a raised bed garden at McBride Elementary School. Hora has been working with the school to build a school garden teachers and students can use to grow vegetables and plants.Students at McBride Elementary School will soon be able to learn more about gardening and the importance of knowing where your food comes from through a project being led by a St. Helens School District employee.

Tish Hora, a St. Helens School District health services employee, is planning to revive two gardens on school grounds by building raised vegetable garden beds and recruiting community volunteers and students interested in gardening to help.

A work party to install the garden beds is planned for next week.

Hora started working with Principal Lisa Rawlings at McBride Elementary several months ago to get the go-ahead for a project to build school gardens in two courtyard areas. The grounds were once used for gardening, but have since been overrun by weeds and other untended plants. Maintenance crews have been working to clear the area since January.

On Monday afternoon, Feb. 29, Hora walked through two courtyard garden areas at the school, explaining elaborate plans to install raised garden beds, birdhouses, hummingbird feeders and even wooden pallet planters once the debris is cleaned out.

“We’re starting out small and hoping to grow,” Hora said.

   With grand plans for the garden in mind, figuring out how to get supplies donated has been the hardest part, Hora said. The cost of lumber alone to build the planters is more than $400, she said. She’s been able to collect donations of some gardening equipment from teachers, plant seeds from the Columbia Pacific Food Bank, and soil from Beaver Bark in Scappoose, but is still working with community members and local businesses to move the project forward.

“I’m hoping that the community will grab hold of it,” Hora said.

Next Saturday, March 12, Hora plans to get the project going during a garden work party. Several volunteers from the McBride Parent Teacher Organization have committed to coming, along with her husband, but Hora said she will be working in the garden even if no other volunteers show up.

School garden benefits

Having a school garden is beneficial is several ways, Hora explained. First, the garden promotes nutrition, the number one reason Hora wanted to revive the school’s garden. Teaching kids where food comes from is something that not all children are exposed to, she said, and the garden provides new knowledge. While the harvest of vegetables won’t be enough to feed the whole school, students who work with the garden will have the chance to try foods they’ve grown themselves, she said.

“If we teach kids about growing it, they may want to eat it more,” Hora said.

The second benefit is that teachers will able to use the space for a variety of educational activities, including interactive science lessons, math skills and literacy activities. The garden space will be open to teachers to use in whatever capacity they would like to use it, Hora said.

While the garden space is currently a bit rundown, several teachers and classes have taken on small projects in the courtyards and use the space. Some teachers use the space for tactile activities like painting, while others use it as an outdoor reading space.

Leanna Hubbard, a special education teacher, has taken students outside to help with weeding and pruning projects as well.

Last year, Hubbard also had students help spread donated mulch from Sauvie Island in the garden, but had trouble growing vegetables because of the shallow depth of the topsoil. The raised garden beds will provide a deeper environment for plants to grow in, she said.

Hubbard said she is looking forward to having a garden that students can use during the school day, as well as after school.

“It’s a great way for my kids to get their hands in the dirt,” Hubbard said.

Once the garden is up and blooming, Hora hopes to start a garden club at the school for students to participate in. She plans to have educational volunteers come out to teach students about the science of gardening as well.

“It gets the kids out and gets their hands dirty, as long as they can wash them after,” Hora joked.