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10-22-18 — Fresh Fridays Begin with Tower Gardens

Oct. 22, 2018 ~ Eating fresh is taking on a whole new meaning at two Olathe elementary schools thanks to a Women’s Giving Circle grant from the Olathe Public Schools Foundation.

April Schoenberg, fifth-grade teacher at Northview Elementary School, and Ariel Jankord, fourth-grade teacher at Briarwood Elementary School, teamed up to apply and won a $15,000 grant during the spring for their innovative idea, Fresh Fridays.

Fresh Fridays incorporates the use of Tower Gardens which are vertical pods with compartments used for growing different herbs and vegetation which directly delivers water and nutrients from the top of the pod. Large hanging LED grow lights also spur growth making it an ideal situation for indoor growth.

Aeroponic gardening – the same technique used by NASA when growing plants in space –  is the technique used by the Tower Gardens. This process only uses water and nutrients rather than soil which enables faster growth and larger yields.

The grant supplied six Tower Gardens at each elementary school. Each building and each grade level handles their gardens with slight variations. Students from each school have even Skyped with one another to further their collaboration and share success.

This program was rolled out at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year and growth began after a couple of weeks. Each Friday, students pick items fresh off the tower to prepare recipes that they have chosen.

“The kids have made salads and pesto,” said Jankord. “When kids were picking which seeds to plant, they did a great job of planning what they would eat and how they would use each ingredient. Our fifth-graders wanted to plant mint to add to their water bottles for flavored water and wanted to plant cilantro and basil to add to lunch items.”

At Northview Elementary, classes and grade levels have collaborated to help make the program incredibly popular.

“Recently our fifth- and second-grade book buddies planted seeds together and read all about plants and gardening,” Schoenberg said. “Then they enjoyed a tasty fresh-mixed green salad prepared by the fifth-grade class.”

“We have had phenomenal support in this initiative and I truly hope we can grow this program,” said Jankord. “In my mind, it’s just the beginning.”