When driving past Mt. Pilchuck Elementary, it is hard to ignore the beautiful garden that is in full bloom. The Panther Giving Garden has been a huge success this past spring and summer.
Produce has been donated to the food bank, to students and families, and the staff of Mt. Pilchuck. Donations were also given to the Hillcrest Elementary Summer Lunch program which provided 1,773 meals in 29 days to children and teens.
The idea for the garden was inspired by Kitty Janowiak and her kindergarten class after they planted a small flower garden. After seeing the thriving flowerbed and attending the Growing Groceries Mentorship Program through Washington State University, Linda Mauer, school librarian, came up with the idea to build a garden to give back to the community and to teach the students about growing food.
“Kids don’t know where their food comes from. This is a good lesson for them, how we start from seed, how we cultivate, grow, take care of it, and how we give back,” says Mauer.
Mauer enlisted the help of her student enrichment group, called the Philosophers Club, to help her design and build the garden. They, along with the kindergarteners in Janowiak’s class, tested the soil, designed the layout and helped in building the garden. About 50 students in all assisted with the garden which broke ground on April 14, 2012.
The garden features over 13 different varieties of vegetables and fruit including strawberries, zucchini, tomatillo, and various herbs. Additionally, there are beautiful sunflowers and dahlias that are also incorporated into the garden.
“It has been a really positive experience,” says Mauer. She explained how the garden not only acts as an outdoor science room for the students, but also unites the staff. “We talk about gardening, recipes, and what we harvest. So it has been a great way for us to even connect as a building.”
The garden project will be incorporated into the curriculum this year which will give students throughout the school an opportunity to be involved.
“It’s an open gate, anyone can come in and walk around,” Mauer shared. Members of the community are welcome and encouraged to come see the hard work put in by the students at Mt. Pilchuck Elementary.
The garden would not have been such a success without the donations from members of the community. Mauer received a grant from the Master Gardeners of Snohomish County to build the beds, the fence, and for compost.
Lake Stevens High School has also donated plants and flowers to the garden.