Scales Technology Academy Focusing on Growing Students’ Green Thumbs Through School Garden
Students at Scales Technology Academy are working on their green thumbs, thanks to Library Teacher Olivia Gersten and several other individuals who have worked hard to make the garden a success at Scales.
The garden has a long history at Scales. It was started several years ago by former teacher Mary Bosen. After Bosen’s retirement, a new caretaker was needed, and Gersten stepped up to be the new champion of the garden.
“Gardening is something I believe in, so I took it over three years ago. It is such a great thing for our students because many of them live in apartments and wouldn’t get to know about growing plants without this opportunity at school,” Gersten shared. “It’s so good for them to stick their fingers in the dirt and help something grow from seed to plant.”
Even though all 400 Scales students are involved in the garden in some way, Gersten started the Garden Club last year to give our students a more in-depth involvement in the garden.
During Garden Club, which meets before school on Tuesdays, students have extended time to work together to plant, water, maintain, and harvest the 25 different types of plants. Plants range from pumpkins, radishes, carrots, kale, cilantro, and more.
“I like Garden Club because it’s fun and we plant cool things. We get to take care of the garden and make food, and help with the environment by adding more oxygen,” said Fourth-Grader Jaidon Boone.
On January 15, the garden got an exciting new feature – an irrigation system, sponsored by the City of Tempe Kid Zone! On build day, Kid Zone staff got students of all ages to take part in the process. From gathering measurements of the garden beds to create a map of the garden, assembling irrigation lines, and helping cover the new drip lines, students were busy all day assisting with the project.
Their previous irrigation system was simple – a hose used by students. Gersten shared that the garden was watered a few times a week using the garden hose. However, the water didn’t soak in as deeply as it needs to, and it’s easier for water to be wasted with the hose. The new system will allow Gersten and the Garden Club to maintain the garden year-round, as the drip system will be on a timer and will provide the plants with consistent water needed to flourish.
“We’re taking this new system very seriously. We want the system to be good for the school, it’s not just something we’re slapping together,” said Kid Zone Nutrition Program Coordinator Kevin Bawden. “We wanted the kids to see and be a part of this as much as possible, so as we move forward, they have ownership in the garden.”
Bawden added that they partnered with technical garden expert Tony Mariano, who holds a Master Gardener certification from the University of Arizona. Mariano donated his time to ensure that the new system works efficiently and effectively.
“Working in the garden connects the kids’ world with what they’re learning in science and math. They’re learning about measuring, plant growth, life cycles, and so much more,” said Bosen. “This also connects healthy living and healthy eating habits.”
“It’s been great having Garden Club here at Scales. Our kids get a sense of ownership, and having that ownership is huge. I love seeing them teach other kids at school about the different plants,” said Scales Behaviorist Barry Hazen.
This project would not have been possible without the generosity of the City of Tempe Kid Zone. We are thankful for their partnership in enriching the lives of our students through opportunities like this!