I was excited a few short months ago when Mrs. Martin told me that her fourth grade class would be doing a historical fiction unit in the spring, and that one of the things they would be studying as part of that unit would be Victory Gardens. It was December. It was cold and snowy here in southeast Iowa. The garden had been frozen over for weeks and would stay that way for weeks and weeks more. “Yes! Let’s do a Victory Garden bed!” I replied, excited already for the day in early spring when the students would get to plan and build their very own Victory Garden.
That long awaited day finally arrived this week. On Monday, Mrs. Martin’s class learned all about Victory Gardens and their historical significance. That afternoon I came to their
classroom and helped them plan their 4×4′ garden bed. We talked about square foot gardening, and they decided what would be planted in each of the 16 squares. Kale, chard, basil, carrots, radishes, beets, lettuce, spinach; they decided where each would go.
The students decided that, since radishes grow fast enough to be ready to harvest by the end of the school year, they should plant several squares of radishes so each student can try one. Two students were selected to paint a beautiful sign for the Victory Garden. Then we went outside and each and every student had the opportunity to get their hands dirty and plant a section of their Victory Garden.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, with just enough breeze. The students weeded the bed, then planted their seeds with care. When they weren’t taking a turn planting they explored the garden space, which was new to many of them. They got to smell the perennial herbs and taste curly kale that had successfully overwintered. They saw newly germinated radishes and potatoes that had already been planted. They explored the compost barrels.
It’s always so amazing when the kids are engaged in the garden, when they have the chance to explore the outdoor space and follow their own curiosity. It feels like a victory when students clamor for the chance to plant tiny seeds in a square of soil, when they ask to taste kale and when they are immersed in smelling the different herbs. When a teacher seizes the opportunity to let her students be in the garden. When the kids plan on tasting the radishes they just planted in a few weeks when they’re ready to harvest. Radishes! They’re excited to try radishes! From the Victory Garden they planted! That feels like a victory to me.