By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — They are making their garden grow and learning all about food and good health.
Seventh-grade students at Londonderry Middle School are getting down in the dirt for some valuable lessons in creating food, being healthy and giving back to the community.
Students took on an outdoor garden project, planting herbs and vegetable plants they started sprouting in the classroom.
Healthy Living teacher Kurt Gualtieri said it’s a perfect spring project, with a lot of good knowledge and hands-on learning mixed in.
“They learn all about where food comes from, beginning with the seeds to plant,” Gualtieri said.
He said his students cared for their seedling inside the classroom until it was time to move the small plants outdoors to their warm weather home.
Several raised beds at the rear of the school were ready for many types of plants once the students began the planting process.
The young gardeners will take turns tending to their gardens. Once school is out for the summer, Gualtieri said, he will spend a lot of time at the school to make sure the gardens are watered and weeded. Other school staff will also pitch in to help care for the plants.
The raised beds were built last summer by Gualtieri’s students, with a donation of soil coming from Shady Hill greenhouse.
It’s not just vegetables taking top billing on the healthy living study sheet. Students are also learning about insects and the types that can support a garden and how to rid it of the pests that could destroy the crops.
Students are currently incubating praying mantises that will eventually grow into adult insects to be released in the garden.
Once the vegetables grow, food will be donated to the school’s cafeteria for nutritious lunches and some will also go to support the Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Derry.
Gualtieri said it’s a good learning experience that is growing with support.
“This has turned into a community and school thing,” Gualtieri said. “Everyone gets involved in it.”