Auburn Elementary Garden Sparks Growing Interest for Students

Avondale club designed to incorporate real-world experience into classroom

For students at Auburn Elementary in Avondale School District, gardening has proved to be a fun and very real application of their regular classroom studies. The Auburn Garden Club, which began as an extension of the school’s Green Club, is linked to Avondale’s summer academic support program. Incorporating science, math, reading and computer research into the hands-on lessons of creating and maintaining a garden provides opportunity for students to discover how to translate what they are learning in school to the real world outside.

Photo courtesy of Avondale School District

Kids are digging the Auburn Garden Club
Photo courtesy of Avondale School District


Avondale School District teacher and club sponsor, Lori Sakalian loves how engaged the students are in every facet of the gardening process, “even pulling weeds! They love everything about it and a garden is something that everyone – from 1st to 5th graders –can participate in, enjoy and learn from.”

Sakalian, who started teaching in Avondale in 1985, works with the students to decide what plants they would like to grow and what gardening method they want to learn about and execute–raised gardening, straw bale gardening, pallet gardening, etc.  Using cross-curricular lessons, she then guides the students through the research, planning and problem solving required for a successful garden. On the science side of things, students learn what they must do to make their plants grow; they explore the life cycle of nature, learning about plant development and reproduction; and they acquire new terminology. In addition, students examine and discuss the physical attributes of each plant and compare and contrast with other plantings.

Math comes into play as the students count and measure to determine seed placement and then measure their vegetables at harvest time. They compare sizes, weights and yield and discuss the differences. Language Arts is woven throughout the experience through reading and writing assignments tied to the real-world activity. Students are also exposed to the benefits of purposeful physical activity.

Sakalian is quick to point out that community partners including Drake’s Landscaping and Home Depot help sustain the garden through donations and families play a role too by volunteering to weed and water it. “The home/school connection through the garden is an added benefit. Our families tend the garden on weekends and in the evenings and then they take home the produce–enjoying the fruits of their labors.”

Community connection aside, what Sakalian likes most about the Garden Club is that it hits all areas of study while addressing the whole child–academically, physically, even socially. “We’ve seen our students grow across the board and just blossom,” she stated.

About Sarah Hovis

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