PIQUA — Local fifth graders are getting a broader definition of the classroom, thanks to a community aimed at putting “the kids of Piqua first.”
With the efforts of community advocate Ruth Koon, who is part of the Friends of the Piqua Parks and the Friends of the Piqua Library, and Anna Baumeister, finance manager at Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, the Garden Tribe School Yard Garden blossomed. The garden, located at the former Nicklin School site, features 13 raised garden beds, each donated by a resident, an organization, or a local business.
“I think the kids are going to be able to really truly get in there and get their hands dirty,” Piqua City Schools Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said.
PCS Curriculum Director Scott Bloom designed a curriculum around the school yard garden, which the Master Gardeners of Miami County will be instructing to the fifth graders, who will be coming from both Piqua Central Intermediate School and Piqua Catholic School. The students will be utilizing the garden in the fall and the spring, planting a variety of types of flowers and vegetables with the latter eventually making it into the schools’ cafeterias.
“It’s one thing to read about plants and to look at pictures of plants,” Thompson said. “To really see them grow and watch them grow and to learn about how that becomes food and then when you get to try all of that food, I think that’s going to be a great piece for our students.”
The school yard garden is also renewing the partnership between Piqua City Schools and the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a great use of this land,” said Andy Hite, a member of the Piqua City School Board of Education. “I think it’s a good connection between the community and the school as well. It’s going to be a great partnership, and I think it’s the beginning of a lot more outdoor education components that we can use for some of our land.”
“When they came and asked, the hardest part I had to do was say, ‘Yes,’” Thompson said.
Koon and Baumeister presented the idea to the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce and then to Piqua City Schools before working approximately six months to bring their vision to fruition, resulting in what is Miami County’s largest school yard garden.
“This is a great project. It’s going to be fun for the kids,” Scott Miller, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said, adding that the kids were “what it’s all about.”
Koon and Baumeister commended the numerous volunteers and community partnerships that contributed the project. The garden itself was designed by Mark Casto.
“The community getting this together has been absolutely thrilling,” Koon said. “The volunteers have been fabulous.”
Koon said that no matter who they went to for help on the project, “No one has refused us.” She added that, thanks to the many partnerships and volunteers, the school district was not burdened with any of the costs for the project.
“I think this is a really unique opportunity that a lot of these kids might not otherwise had growing up in the city,” Piqua Central Intermediate School Principal Josh Kauffman said. “It’s been neat to watch this project grow.”
Kauffman added that the school was very appreciative of the community and the donors who “put the kids of Piqua first.”
During during a special Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours held Thursday evening at the garden site, Koon and Baumeister presented the garden to Thompson and Piqua Catholic School Principal Bradley Zimmerman.
“We’re going to give you guys the key to the shed,” Baumeister said.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336