By Natalie Perez, Monterey Road Garden Educator Manager
The students at Monterey Road Elementary are relentlessly surprising me with their curious minds and eager hearts. Help in the garden is not hard to come by. On any given day helpful hands will be around to collect hummingbird sage seeds or weeding in the food forest. The engagement of students was especially portrayed when a group of students decided to organize a pumpkin stand after school one October day.
I was meandering about the food forest noticing the majority of our pumpkins were ready to be harvested, and soon! Students had been eager to pick a pumpkin to take home but I reminded them that there were not enough pumpkins for each student so instead, each class would come pick a pumpkin to house in their classroom. A few students who were on lunch came to me in the food forest and pointed out to me that the pumpkins were ready to be harvested. I had explained to them earlier that a pumpkin would show its readiness by the brownness in its stem. They remembered this and told me that they knew these pumpkins were ready because “Look at their stems Miss Natalie, they are brown and dry!”. I told them they were right and that I would need help to harvest the abundance of pumpkins we had and that I was pondering over what we should do with them. Students were more than excited to help with the harvest and told me we should hold a pumpkin stand after school for families to donate for pumpkins. They had the idea of the proceeds going towards new seeds to plant in our food forest. How symbiotic!
We ended up having loads of help harvesting all of the pumpkins, students from all grades were able to lend a hand in harvesting a pumpkin. Other students got to work putting together a sign for our pumpkin stand and a container for donations to go in. They even discussed just how the pumpkins should be laid out to allow for optimal presentation. In the end, the pumpkin stand was a huge success. The experience from start to finish was born, planned, and executed by the students for the students. Monterey Road is filled with students that inspire me as their garden educator to make garden-based education an empowering and fun experience where we GROW together. Every Child Deserves a Place to Grow!