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'Edible' schoolyard proposed at Bester Elementary

August 02, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A Hagerstown couple proposed planting an “edible” schoolyard at Bester Elementary School during a Washington County Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

“We want to make Bester something special,” Gordon Bartels told the board during its meeting at the central office off Commonwealth Avenue in Hagerstown.

Bartels said he and his wife, Janet, were sad to learn that parents in the Bester school district would be given the option to send their children to other county schools. The school choice option is the result of Bester students’ reading and math assessment test results in recent years.

“We feel we need to attract parents and children from throughout Washington County to go there, not encourage parents to escape from Bester,” Gordon Bartels said.

The couple, who are Washington County Master Gardeners, previously appeared before the board asking that the new Bester Elementary, still to be built, include room on the grounds to continue a vegetable garden.

The garden is part of an after-school program that gives children who have “never seen raw cucumber” the chance to learn about gardening, he said.

An edible schoolyard is an organic vegetable garden and kitchen classroom that allows elementary school students to participate in growing, harvesting and preparing seasonal produce, Janet Bartels said.

It includes a curriculum that is infused with various subjects, she said.

The new school would need to have a kitchen classroom and a cafeteria that “facilitates healthy eating and friendly conversations,” she said. The school system also would need to hire a farmer and a cook for the program.

Funding sources would include grants, she said.

After the meeting, Board President Wayne Ridenour said he wasn’t sure the school system would be able to do exactly what the Bartelses proposed, but that staff would explore the idea.

Ridenour said the idea has “tremendous merit,” particularly for children without access to such a lifestyle or education.

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