published Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Neither worms nor broccoli can stop Red Bank students' garden

Third grade teacher Marissa Butler, right, instructs students at Red Bank Elementary School as they prepare to plant broccoli, cabbage, radishes and carrot seeds Tuesday in raised beds in between classroom buildings. The school recently received a grant from the Junior League of Chattanooga to upgrade their gardens.
Third grade teacher Marissa Butler, right, instructs students at Red Bank Elementary School as they prepare to plant broccoli, cabbage, radishes and carrot seeds Tuesday in raised beds in between classroom buildings. The school recently received a grant from the Junior League of Chattanooga to upgrade their gardens.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Refurbished gardens at Red Bank Elementary School are giving third-graders a chance to learn about plant life, practice valuable gardening skills and, if all goes according to plan, serve fresh herbs and vegetables in the school cafeteria.

Also, there are worms. And caterpillars.

Despite creepy-crawlies, students already are invested in caring for their plants. On Tuesday, they replanted garden plots that had spent nearly five years barren and untended. But before that, teacher Marissa Butler made each student promise to love and care for the gardens.

Students were happy to oblige, at least until they learned they'd be planting broccoli, news that elicited disgusted faces and groans.

Regardless of the broccoli yuck factor, students were eager to show off what they've learned about plants.

"I never knew that they breathe the bad stuff in the air and get food from the sun," said Gavin Buchanan

"If you drop a seed on the ground, it can still grow," added Jamaryn Cotton.

The third-graders were paired with first-graders to weed the garden before planting, and were happy to share what they knew with the younger students.

"Like five minutes after my guy started [to weed], he knew how to do it," said Joseph Ellis.

"We tried to find the biggest roots and pull them out and be strong," said Brandon Tate.

Butler said that money to restart the school's gardening program came from a Junior League of Chattanooga grant.

The cabbages, radishes, broccoli and carrots that students planted were chosen because they can survive potentially cold spring weather.

The plants were donated by Bonnie Plants in Knoxville, which offers a $1,000 scholarship annually to the Tennessee third-grader who grows the biggest cabbage, she said.

She hopes to keep the garden yearround, planting strawberries and peas for the summer and small pumpkins to be harvested in the fall.

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