Queen Anne Elementary is already well familiar with growing young minds.

But what about growing a garden?

That’s the purpose of a $2,000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation.

For Andrea Hildebrandt, the application seemed straight forward, so she submitted one on behalf of the school. 

Nona Evans, executive director of the Whole Kids Foundation, said grant applications are evaluated based on how schools plan to engage students in the garden.

“We look for multifaceted experiences that incorporate everything from math and science to art, history and physical education,” she said. “One of our key learnings is that a successful school garden is a collaborative project.  They must harness the passion and power of an entire community.”

Every school garden, she said, is unique to its campus and community.

“We support schools in an approach to gardening that works for them,” she said.

In total, the foundation has awarded more than 4,000 gardens, and invested nearly $8.5 million.

At Queen Anne Elementary, the new garden is being integrated into the learning experience in several ways, connected to the school’s “five pillars” of self-directed learning, creativity, critical thinking, concerned, confident, and compassionate world citizenship, and learning everywhere.

Each Wednesday, any QAE student is welcome to participate in the Gather in the Garden afterschool program, which combines cultural, literary, and creative components to basic earth and plant science concepts.

“My goal was to create a consistent time and place at school where students can learn, discuss and have fun with soil, plants and growing,” said Hildebrandt, the QAE Garden Coordinator. “There are so many ways to connect this to our every day world culturally, artistically, literary, scientifically and physically.”

However, that’s not where the grant money is going. That funding is going to work on the QAE Cultural Garden. Earlier this year, teachers were invited to discuss questions around food and it’s source with their classes. From those discussions, Hildebrandt collected information about what students wanted to grow, and prepared seed germination lessons for kindergartners, second, and fourth graders. As many of the vegetables and flowers students had mentioned grow, they’ll be transported into garden beds at the school.

“The students are writing, illustrating, comparing and contrasting seeds attributes, doing hands on learning, sharing their growing stories, discussing, digging, feeling the soil,” she said. “The students are doing so much of this and they are enjoying it.”

Hildebrandt said without the school’s community, the garden wouldn’t be possible.

“All of these events and programs are happening with the support of teachers, our principal, students and teachers,” she said. “It's a great opportunity to help coordinate not only the programs and events but the stewardship of the garden. The garden belongs to the QAE community, I just get the awesome job of cultivating their interest and participation.”

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