EDMOND — The three young boys who are digging in the mud say they have a plan. Two girls, one with a butterfly in her hair and the other wearing yellow sunglasses, also are working in the dirt.
These students and 33 others in St. Mary's Episcopal Elementary School's Beyond the Classroom after-school program aren't playing outside during recess. They are in the gardening business and are getting their spring crops ready.
This is the third year the students have raised vegetables and flowers to be sold, given away or eaten at school.
The idea came from after-school classmates Joshua Swisher, 9, Charlie Schultheiz, 9, and Caden Trammell, 10.
“We started a club and wanted a garden, and we went to the teacher,” said Joshua, a third-grader. “It puts us closer to nature so later in life we don't want to be couch potatoes.”
“We agreed we needed a garden,” said Charlie, a fourth-grader. “It is a good experience and really fun.”
“I like everything about it,” said Caden, a fourth-grader.
The garden program has been around for three years under director Donna Mackiewicz, a naturalist.
“It is definitely rewarding,” Mackiewicz said. “It is really important that they get outside so they can explore and learn about nature.”
Students grew turnips this winter and sold them to buy potting soil for this spring's gardens.
They raised enough tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic to make a big bowl of salsa, which they shared with fellow students.
“Students ask to stay here and don't want to go home,” Mackiewicz said. “One of the rules I had to suggest was when your parent or caregiver comes to pick you up — you must stop and gather your things and leave with no argument. Some still cry or say they want to stay.”
The garden program recently won the Edmond Beautiful 2012 Keep it Clean, Keep it Green award, presented during an Edmond City Council meeting. The award recognizes an Edmond organization that implements a goal to beautify, reduce, reuse and recycle or divert waste within the community.