An eighth grader at Erin School recently won a grant-writing contest that allowed the school to implement a garden program that she had proposed. Courtney Kirley was the Student State Ambassador from Wisconsin at the 2016 Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Summit at Purdue University. At the summit, she competed against students from around the country in a grant-writing contest. “I’ve always wanted to start a garden,” said Kirley, “so I pitched that idea to the judge.” She developed a grant proposal along with a poster, and then won the Farm to School contest and received a grant check for $1500.
The grant was received and the school went into action, even matching the grant contribution with support from the district. Eighth grader Isabella Friedl worked with Kirley to figure out the needed materials for the project, and then a team of students worked together to help spread rocks and haul dirt. Raised garden beds for every grade level (kindergarten through eighth grade) were put into place. Each grade level started everything from seed and planted sunflowers, beans, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, corn, carrots, Swiss chard, and more. A Garden Club began and is maintained by third grade teacher Theresa Azoff, as well as several extremely hardworking students and their families. Everything is currently at its peak of bounty and is ready for harvest, and the community has been enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.
The school continues to compost and is getting the soil for the 2018 Spring Garden beds ready now with a perfect balance of carbon and nitrogen produced right at Erin School.
This community outreach piece has been fulfilling for Kirley. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but when I see the garden it makes me really happy. It was great to get people involved.” Learning about agriculture and teaching responsibility to maintain this garden has been enriching for the Erin community.