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Third graders at a Winton
elementary school have a green thumb.
The 20 students in Bulmaro Lopez’
classroom at Winfield Elementary School are finishing up a winter garden and
are about to plant the spring-summer version. This is the third year Lopez
has introduced the gardening element as part of their scientific studies.
“It’s hands-on science in a way,”
Lopez said. “They really do enjoy it. They are all involved.”
In two plots flanking the third
grade wing and a strip near the classroom windows, the students grow potatoes,
cabbage, kale, Swiss chard, red onions, celery and carrots.
The spring-summer garden about to
be planted will include string beans, tomatoes, broccoli and hot peppers and
the first foray into pumpkin growing.
Principal Kim Sherman said the
garden is becoming a school tradition and parents are involved, too. She said
students aren’t afraid to get dirty in the various aspects of tending to the
Luis Jaime, 9, thinks the class
garden is wonderful. His favorite vegetable is cabbage and he likes harvesting
the crops and seeing the end results of their labor.
Jeremiah Price, also 9, said the
garden is beautiful and he likes potatoes the best. His favorite thing in the
garden is digging.
Third-grader Stephanie Ortega said
the garden is awesome and she is partial to carrots. Her favorite activity is
watering plants in the greenhouse.
Lopez said during the school’s
open house, students often will direct their parents to the garden before they
visit the classrooms.
“At recess time, rather than go
out and play, the students will ask for tools to tend to the garden,” Lopez
said. “At the end of May we will have the ‘Third Grade French Fry Day’ when
students fix baked potatoes, French fries, chorizo, potato salad and potatoes
Lopez said his students have also
taken a liking to green vegetable smoothies, processed in blenders bought for
the gardening program. The school bought tools and the greenhouse for the
The teacher with 18 years
experience teaching in Winton said he has always enjoyed gardening and has one
at home. As a child, he enjoyed gardening at the one-acre plot at his father’s
Some students don’t have a place
to grow fruits and vegetables at home. Winfield second-graders look forward to
their turn in the garden and fourth-graders want to come back and help, Lopez
Sherman said all 80 third-graders
get involved in the garden. Students make fruit salads, green salads and salsa
from the crops they grow.
“I think it’s great,” Sherman
said. “The kids just love it. They get to eat what they plant.”
Some of the plants were donated by
Merced College’s horticultural program and parents donate either plants or
seeds for the next crop. Lopez plans to save some seeds from this year’s crop
for next year.
Lopez said all the plants and
vegetables get used and nothing goes to waste. While school is out for the
summer, Lopez returns to make sure the garden stays healthy.
Randall Heller, Winton School
District superintendent, said the garden seems to get bigger each year. He said
district trustees support meaningful programs like the garden and the youngsters
will remember the gardening experiences all their lives.
Last May, students served Winton
school trustees the green vegetable smoothies during a board meeting. Like
their youthful counterparts, board members weren’t sure about the green drinks
at first but they quickly became a big hit.