School gardens help students blossom

By Ruth Koon - Contributing Columnist

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to become involved with the Piqua Chamber of Commerce to put together a project that would benefit the entire community. That project is a schoolyard garden for the Piqua City Schools and Piqua Catholic School. To date, this has become one of the most successful and rewarding projects that has positively affected the students in our community.

We have named the garden The Garden Tribe. Anna Baumeister and I have worked together for months to bring this garden to fruition. We studied everything we could on the subject, visited a similar garden in Dayton and brought together important and key stakeholders to move it forward. One of the important stakeholders was the Piqua City School system. Dwayne Thompson embraced this from the very beginning with great enthusiasm. Josh Kauffman, the principal of Piqua Central Intermediate School, and Scott Bloom, the curriculum director for the school system, were equally as enthused and supportive. Brad Zimmerman, the principal of Piqua Catholic School, was thrilled with this project that was so timely and exciting for the students.

When we think of key people who made this happen we also must mention the Master Gardeners of Miami County. Fourteen of them conduct the classes in the garden weekly to approximately 250 fifth-grade students. The science teachers prepare the students for their weekly visits to their garden. We have 13 raised gardens in the schoolyard garden each donated by a business or individuals from the community and hand-built by a dedicated group of volunteers. Mark Casto designed the garden centered around a huge, beautiful tree on the empty lot where Nicklin Avenue School was located. We have had many challenges during these past few months, but with a great number of volunteers we have been able to address them. We made a list of the volunteers and donors which ended up to be so extensive that we do not have the space to name all of them. They will, however, be named on a special recognition plaque in the garden.

This garden has provided an important life skill opportunity to the children in Piqua. Their lives will be enriched, expanded and enhanced with this important study about learning where their food comes from and about healthy eating. All the while they will be discovering nature, exploring the earth and learning respect for their environment. To date, Josh Kauffman has reported that the Garden Tribe has won a number of state and local awards for this creative and inspiring project. It is great to know that Piqua has taken a lead in this innovative program as well as bringing an empty school lot back to life.

For more information about how you can help with this project please contact me, Anna Baumeister, or the Piqua Chamber of Commerce at 773-2765.

By Ruth Koon

Contributing Columnist

Ruth A. Koon is a resident of Piqua who is involved in numerous community groups and projects.

Ruth A. Koon is a resident of Piqua who is involved in numerous community groups and projects.