Naval Avenue to teach hands-on lessons through gardening

Jean and Glen Schanen’s Bloomington Avenue garden is an example of what Naval Avenue Early Learning Center intends to build on school property. - Steven DeDual/staff photo
Jean and Glen Schanen’s Bloomington Avenue garden is an example of what Naval Avenue Early Learning Center intends to build on school property.
— image credit: Steven DeDual/staff photo

Heidi Bell and Dave St. Clair, two teachers at the Naval Avenue Early Learning Center, are taking lessons about plants to a whole new level.

They are building a raised-bed, community garden on the school’s property to help teach students more about science and math and hopefully bring the community together.

The plan is to build a “raised-bed garden area to give students an opportunity to learn about making good food choices, augment classroom learning, acquire a passion for nature and make a difference in their community. With the rising interest in organic produce and the current economy, this garden has the potential to make a school and community impact. Harvested vegetables or fruit could be used in the school cafeteria or taken home to supplement family dinners,” according to the duo’s proposal.

“The garden would give teachers an opportunity to extend learning and application of measurement skills, observation techniques, writing and a wide variety of mathematical skills and earth science concepts,” Bell said.

The garden site is about 1,620 square feet of partially fenced area that receives full sun. There are already water lines present in the area that are accessible via a ground utility valve box cover.

The usefulness of the garden would extend beyond his and Bell’s classrooms, according to St. Clair.

“Every educator would have access to the garden plot including Head Start preschool, Montessori preschool, all grade levels, the Boys & Girls Club and Kitsap Community Resources,” he said.

Bell also said an after-school gardening club may be feasible.

And work on the garden would not end with the school year. Throughout the summer, student, teacher and community volunteers would ensure the garden is watered and the weeds are kept to a minimum.

“In the fall, the students will again tend to the garden and harvest the fruits of their labor,” Bell said. “This garden could be a beginning example of community and schools working together to improve the reputation and beauty of Bremerton by ‘going green.’”

The project is getting a lot of outside support from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility science and math tutors, the Kingston Worm Farm — an annual speaker in the third-grade classroom — and Jean and Glen Schanen, who have offered their services as consultants in designing and maintaining the garden.

“We have gotten a lot of support from the community,” St. Clair said.

“We are so excited about this project,” Bell said. “And others around are just as excited as we are.”

Parker Lumber has volunteered to sell lumber or concrete block material for the project at cost, which Bell estimates will be about $450.

Additional funding will come from a combination of the Parent Teacher Association and donations/fundraisers.

The teachers and volunteers hope the project will motivate others to plant their own gardens too.

“If everyone grew just a little something, we could feed the whole city,” Glen Schanen said.

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