|6/29/2013 2:01:00 PM|
DePue school students hope garden grows for community
|NewsTribune photo/Kim Shute|
Community coordinator Anna McKee and DePue students Adilene Gavina and Ana Madrigal prepare the school’s Legacy Garden for planting. The school has two raised beds that are tended by student volunteers under the guidance of McKee and science instructor Keith Garcia.
DEPUE — Some civic minded students at DePue School hope an idea for a school legacy garden will grow into a community garden to be shared by the entire village.
Last year, former student Liliana Raya decided on a gardening project for an environmental science class and that evolved into the current school garden.
Students have built and maintain two raised garden beds behind the school’s science lab. Potting soil and compost for the garden is trucked in from outlying communities due to possible contaminants in DePue soil.
Keith Garcia, science instructor and adviser for the garden said even families in the community have started to bring in “virgin soil” for gardens due to concerns about soil in the village.
Community coordinator and garden adviser Anna McKee said a mid-year effort was made to include the garden into the curriculum and she hopes to expand the effort next year.
Although students who volunteer for gardening duty can get community service hours, most agree that isn’t the reason they participate.
“I like helping the community,” said senior Adilene Gavina. “I like helping Anna; she does a lot for this so helping her is important.”
Ana Madrigal agreed, saying, “After doing all the hard work, I like seeing all the vegetables grow and knowing that we did this.”
Garcia sees the garden as more than just planting and growing. As a science instructor he wants to impress upon the students the effect of contaminated soil on plant and animal life and hopes to expand the garden into the curriculum so students can get that hands-on, real world experience.
The group doesn’t want to stop at just a school garden, however.
McKee began to develop the idea to turn the concept of the school garden into a community garden to benefit village residents after meeting with Jeff Spitz, founder of Food Patriots.
“Food Patriots has a goal of getting everyone to improve their buying and eating habits by 10 percent,” he said. “That’s 10 percent more fresh fruits and veggies, 10 percent more organics, 10 percent more locally grown — 10 percent more from wherever you are on the continuum. Now, how easy is that?”
McKee, Garcia and the student volunteers see a community garden as a way to bring the community together as well as a way to introduce more fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access.
“We don’t have a farmer’s market where people are exposed to organic fruits and veggies,” McKee said.
Garcia said he has spoken with several members of the village board who are enthusiastic about the idea of a community garden. The group also has a “soft commitment” from a community member for the use of centrally located land. They are currently exploring options for funding through donations or private contributions.
What started out as an idea for a school project has expanded further than any of the volunteers could have foreseen. Garcia however, isn’t surprised.
“Just because we’re a small town, doesn’t mean we don’t have larger visions.”
Kim Shute can be reached at (815) 879-5200 or princetonreporter@ newstrib.com.
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