December 20, 2014
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Gardening ‘grows’ on Wickes students in ‘Read and Weed’ program
Nick Howard

The students in Lynn Manning’s fourth grade class at John Wickes School in Warwick have given their school and the surrounding area a gift that will grow and grow.

They have started a garden in a previously vacant area adjacent to the school. They filled the area with compost donated by the Highway Department. A former student of Manning, Jenna Carmichael spoke to her father who is an employee of the Highway Department and passed along the class’ plan to start a garden. This desire to create the garden arose from reading about gardening in class. Last year Manning tried to start a garden, working with soil bought at Home Depot, but it did not take.

This year, the garden has flourished in ways neither Manning nor her students imagined. What started out as a class project, the garden has become something enjoyed by the whole school.

First the students worked tirelessly at recess for three days straight to spread the compost. Afterwards, the entire school helped plant the garden. As part of an anti-bullying campaign, students were encouraged to think of one kind act as they planted. A student in Manning’s class, Dylan thought of the actions of “being nice to others and being a good friend” while he planted.

Manning’s class continues to venture out a few times a week to the garden and participate in an activity known as “Reading and Weeding.” Those who do not wish to read, take up the weeding for the day.

The students have really taken to this activity. One student, Sara, is quoted as simply saying, “It’s a lot of fun to read and weed.” Another student, Jordan, said he has learned from the experience, “If weeds grow a lot, then plants won’t get enough soil.”

In the garden both kindness and plants have grown. Manning is proud to report that beans have sprouted and flowers that her parents donated have bloomed. A border of rocks now encloses the garden and a decoration added anonymously on the weekend was dubbed by the students as a “random act of kindness.”

In the classroom, Manning and her students grew lettuce. Recently it was harvested and used for a salad bar event. The students were encouraged to bring in one item to add to the lettuce. Following the feast, two students brought home some leftover lettuce plants as part of a desire to cultivate them further and keep them growing.

This commitment to finish what you start and taking it one step further is something shared by some of the students living in the surrounding area. Manning said students come after school and on the weekends to work in the garden. In addition, they have vowed to come back to the school throughout the summer to tend to the garden. In addition to committing to a summer reading list, they are committing to a summer weeding list.

Manning welcomed anyone who wishes to support the garden to donate plants, especially perennials. Donations can be brought to the school or simply left in the garden at 50 Child Lane.


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