Thanksgiving starts in the garden for Crane students

By Mary Lee Wren

Crane School photo
Crane School students bring in bounty from the school garden.

Each year in the fall, Crane School’s fifth-grade students harvest veggies from the school’s garden beds and prepare a big pot of soup for their class. They use a pitchfork to gently pry each carrot loose from the dirt.

“We grow heirloom varieties,” Elizabeth Del Negro, garden coordinator and educator, told students. “They’re so sweet and soft that these carrots cannot be harvested by machine.”

One girl reached down and pulled the feather tops of the carrots, and as the dirt fell away from the orange root she held it up high toward her and said, “This is a real carrot!”

Hands-on experiences in the Crane School garden offer students an array of skills that otherwise might be lost in the hustle of our modern lives.

The cycle of life is often hidden, but taking the time to plant, grow and harvest the foods we eat teaches students valuable lessons such as sustainability, Crane believes.

It also reminds students to relish life’s simple pleasures like digging in the dirt and enjoying a sweet crop grown in their own plot of land.

The chicken coop, worm bin, and garden beds are all part of a grand design at Crane that supports community-based service learning and green curriculum.

Moreover, the garden spaces provide a place for school-wide togetherness, with each grade charged with one important task.

For example, third-grade students collect lunch compost to be reused for fertilizer; second-graders care for baby chicks as they grow into chickens, and then collect the eggs; and fourth-graders manage the garden harvest and have a community farm stand.

Right now, the garden is full of fall vegetables waiting to be harvested and served as part of the school’s Thanksgiving feast.

When the community sits down to enjoy the bounty of the harvest, it will also be a time to reflect on the abundance of shared experiences within the classroom and in the garden.

“As an educator, I wonder which experiences we provide will make a lasting impression,” said Del Negro.

“Time will tell, but I bet one day the student who picked the carrot will look back on that experience and think, ‘That was pretty magical. I hope my kids get to dig a carrot at school like I did,’” she said.

Crane Country Day School is a K-8 independent school. For more information or to schedule a tour, call Erin Guerra, director of admission, at 805-969-7732, ext. 106.