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11-29-22 — Olathe East Interpersonal Skills Classes Tend to Garden

Nov. 29, 2022 ~ From planting to harvesting to feasting. The Olathe East High School interpersonal skills classes have a beloved garden that allows students to practice their horticulture skills and is a gateway to job skills and project-based learning for all levels of students.

“The garden began from a Kansas City Community Gardens grant that built four raised beds close to our classrooms,” teacher Mary Vanhooser said. “Two of the beds are raised even higher to make it easier for students who use wheelchairs to access the garden. The KC Community Gardens continues to partner and help repair the beds as needed while doing yearly visits to offer advice.”

This semester, students partnered together to plant varieties of kale, varieties of lettuce, sugar snap peas, varieties of potatoes, cilantro, rainbow Swiss chard, mustard greens, dragon tongue beans, rainbow carrots and tatsoi in late August. It is Vanhooser’s favorite time of the year.

“Watching all of our students partner together to work and problem solve ways to get everyone involved and in the dirt on those planting days is some of my favorite moments,” she said. “The garden gives us a chance to practice not just gardening skills, but also math, science and communication skills. Students respond much better to the hands-on, project-based learning the garden provides.”

In early October, students harvest the vegetables with the goal of hosting the annual feast for all of Olathe East's faculty and staff. This year’s favorites included honey-glazed rainbow carrots, kale chips and roasted root vegetables. This garden is truly a community effort that impacts all students and staff.

"A surprising number of students have never planted or tended a garden before and very few have ever eaten something they have grown from a seed,” Vanhooser said. “Being able to nurture both their learning and the plants they are learning from is an amazing experience. There is just something about eating things you have grown, after having worked to keep them alive for weeks on end. We may get some looks when we are out covering the beds with blankets when there is a threat of an early frost, but once they taste our delicious kale chips, they get it.”