Merrillville High School students tend to the community garden | Merrillville

Abigail Elenz, left, and Donnyell Day transplant snow peas into a larger planter in the community garden at Merrillville High School.

John J. Watkins, The Times

MERRILLVILLE — Classes at Merrillville High School were over for the day, but ninth-grader Donnyell Day stayed.

Day and two other students were helping to tend the potato, onion and other vegetable plantations on Tuesday in fenced beds east of the school.

“I love creating something out of nothing,” Day said of her after-school volunteer work.

This was all part of the Community Garden’s inauguration event.

The community garden, which is open to students and staff at Merrillville High School, actually started two years ago, Patti Tubbs-Clark said.

Tubbs-Clark is Culinary Director for Family and Consumer Science classes.

A sign at the front of the garden reads: ‘Please feel free to pull a few weeds or grab a few items from the garden, but remember this is for the community so leave some for the next person.”

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The garden space will be maintained by Girl Scout Troop #30351, part of Abigail Elenz’s Gold Star Award project; MHS Culinary Arts; and Special Educator Beth O’Halek’s class.

Merrillville High School students plant a community garden

As students wait to board buses to go home, Chloe Smith waters vegetables in the community garden at Merrillville High School.

John J. Watkins, The Times

“It (the community garden) went well and last year we put away 20 liters of tomatoes,” Tubbs-Clark said.

Tubbs-Clark said the impetus for the garden is the whole farm-to-table movement and providing more environmentally friendly food.

“I see him staying,” Tubbs-Clark said of the move.

She said the shift to the farm-to-table movement in high school began two years ago, before COVID, with her students planting, visiting farms and seeing farm animals, including chickens, up close. .

“We also went to farmers markets,” Tubbs-Clark said.

Potatoes, easy to grow, were part of the initial planting in high school, as was the placement of the strawberry walls.

Merrillville High School students plant a community garden

Donnyell Day, left, Abigail Elenz and Chole Smith examine the many vegetables that will eventually need to be transplanted into the community garden at Merrillville High School.

John J. Watkins, The Times

Most of the plants in this year’s garden were planted by students in her classes in February, including tomatoes, peppers and herbs.

“Some of the seeds took and some didn’t,” Tubbs-Clark said.

Many unused plants in the garden are available to students and staff on tables and shelves set up next to the garden, Tubbs-Clark said.

“We encourage students and teachers to bring their own pots and create a mini garden they can take home,” she said.

Baby chickens, newly hatched after 21 days of incubation inside the school, were also brought into the garden for their first glimpse of the outdoors, Tubbs-Clark said.

Merrillville High School students plant a community garden

Students raise chickens at the community garden at Merrillville High School.

John J. Watkins, The Times

Chloe Smith, a ninth-grader and member of the school’s culinary club, stayed after school to help fellow ninth-grader Abigail Elenz.

“I just wanted to collaborate with her,” Smith said.

Smith said her family had a garden in their home and she learned a lot from her father, so she had a good base.

“My dad helped me understand gardening,” Smith said.

Elenz said the garden was maintained by her and Troop 30351, with the end being that she won the Gold Star Award, Girl Scouting’s most prestigious award.

“I love planting a garden and watching it grow,” Elenz said.

Those wishing to donate items for the flower beds or garden can contact Melinda Henderson, Troop Leader 30351, at 219-779-1504.

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