Glenwood Springs Garden Club grant expands student garden program at Glenwood Springs Elementary School | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood Springs Garden Club grant expands student garden program at Glenwood Springs Elementary School

Megan Webber
Post Independent intern

Stephanie Pollender and Renee Miller talk about the location and plans for the plots and greenhouse in front of Glenwood Springs Elementary School.

Glenwood Springs Elementary School students have been planting flowers in crates they helped to build outside of the school since reconstruction was done on the building and a new wing was built.

Beyond that, many students have never been exposed to a fresh garden or homegrown vegetables. Glenwood Springs Garden Club member Renee Miller said her heart exploded with joy when she heard that the Garden Club would give a $2,000 grant to GSES to build two greenhouses and plant a garden.

"It was my passion to get it going, get it done," said Miller. "It's not just a school project, it becomes a community project because parents can be involved, and it's learning nutrition and it's learning how plants grow, and it's learning about food in a different manner that doesn't come in a package."

She added that she hopes that more community groups will see what is being done at GSES and want to do the same thing.

Physical Education teacher Stephanie Pollender has been working closely with Miller on this project and will take her classes out to garden and learn about food once the greenhouses are up. She said that she hopes to partner with Glenwood Springs High School in some way so that the high schoolers can also participate in the gardening.

"I'm excited about the health component just because that's important to me, and I just see that kids don't eat a whole lot of healthy food anymore," said Pollender. "I think after they grow it, they'll at least try it."

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Miller and Pollender are also hoping that the greenhouses will bring the GSES community closer together. For example, the school's Parent Mentor Program is a group of adults, some of whom are parents of GSES students, who come help with projects at the school during the school year. They support the school in many ways, including integrating the local Hispanic community and serving as a connection between the school and Hispanic parents. The hope is for this group to get parents involved in the gardening.

"For the kids to see their parents doing it, too, is going to be nice," Pollender said.

Pollender said that a curriculum has not been entirely designed yet around the greenhouses, but several teachers and GSES Principal Audrey Hazleton have expressed interest in getting the students involved. Pollender also hopes that the school cafeteria will cook some of the food that grows in the greenhouses.

"I want somehow to convert the school into eating healthier," Pollender said.

As a member of the school's health committee, Pollender sees the way the students interact with the food in the cafeteria, and knows that everything they are familiar with comes in a package. She hopes that if the students know more about how food gets to their school, they will be more interested in healthy eating.

"I did a unit with first-graders about food, and now they're looking at the labels and everything. It doesn't take much," she said.

No one knows quite yet what will be grown in the greenhouses, but Miller and Pollender hope to be able to grow vegetables that will incorporate the many cultures of GSES students. A timeline for construction is unknown, but the Garden Club hopes to have the greenhouses up by the fall.

GSES will host an open house the first or second week of school, and Pollender will be asking parents to come help build and plant in the garden. The school is currently in need of materials, from gravel and shovels to sprinklers and heating, and is looking for donations from local hardware stores.

For more details, contact Stephanie Pollender at spollender@rfschools.com or Renee Miller at ralidam748@gmail.com.