Franklin School students Theodore Miller, 8, and McHenry Miller, 12, look for ladybugs in a raised planter in the school’s garden. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Franklin School students Theodore Miller, 8, and McHenry Miller, 12, look for ladybugs in a raised planter in the school’s garden. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Students learn in outdoor classrooms

Teacher: Gardens teach about ecosystems

  • By Diane Urbani de la Paz Peninsula Daily News
  • Tuesday, May 24, 2022 1:30am
  • NewsClallam County

PORT ANGELES — Darlene Clemens, a lifelong Port Angeles resident, activist and retired educator, was curious about what local students are learning about climate change. So she called the Port Angeles School District and got some good news.

Youngsters from elementary school through high school are growing, sharing and eating vegetables from on-campus gardens. In the process, they’re discovering the taste of local produce and reducing food waste and the greenhouse gases it emits.

They’re learning about natural ecosystems, said Mary Krzysiak, who gardens with her second-graders at Dry Creek Elementary School.

“Gardens are a sign of hope,” she said.

Her students are hands-on stewards of the land. And while they’re out there with the vegetables and flowers, they’re engaged in what’s known as social-emotional learning.

In a word: Quiet.

Krzysiak, who has taught at Dry Creek for four years now, watches her kids benefit from the peace in the garden.

“In a lot of our students’ lives, they don’t have a lot of time to be still, and quiet, and to look for worms,” she said.

Across the city at Franklin Elementary School, “we have kale, carrots, greens, potatoes and peas,” said parent volunteer Christine Loewe.

In summertime, some of Franklin’s produce is donated to the food bank; fresh vegetables are added to weekly farmshare boxes for local families in need.

The Port Angeles School District won a $24,000 grant from the Washington State Arts Commission, Loewe said, to develop projects such as these connecting art and science. Then came a $4,717 grant from the state Department of Ecology for Franklin Elementary’s composting work.

Local businesses, including Airport Garden Center and organizations including Washington State University-Clallam County Extension, the Port Angeles Education Foundation and the Port Angeles Garden Club, also bolstered the gardening movement as it spread around the school district.

One of the surprises that came out of the Jefferson Elementary garden, said fourth-grade teacher Raena Young, was the students’ preference for a particular vegetable.

“It turns out they love bok choy,” Young said.

“A lot of the kids had never tried it; they eat it straight out the garden.”

“They are in love with berries. We have strawberries,” she said, adding this growing experience engages all five of each youngsters’ senses.

Lettuce, spinach, cilantro, onions, tomatoes and potatoes also grow in Jefferson’s 40-foot by 20-foot plot. As they get their hands into the dirt, the kids learn about insects and other creatures, all in living color.

And this project-based learning, Young said, has gone beyond the digging and weeding.

“We needed money,” so the students wrote hundreds of letters and hand-delivered them to local businesses. They learned to write a proper and persuasive letter, Young said, and several businesses donated funds and services.

Hoch Construction built the fence, for example. Welders at Peninsula College made the garden gate.

Loewe, for her part, said she’s seen youngsters experience the simple joy of being outdoors, away from their screens. Gardening is “just a unique opportunity to bring their learning to life,” she said.

Clemens and her husband Michael likewise lent hands-on support: Michael built garden beds and other furnishings, and the couple has planted primroses at the high school.

“They’ve already been vandalized. We’ll just keep replacing them,” Clemens said.

Her message to local students: You matter to your community. And while Clemens was pleasantly surprised about the gardens, she said she was “beyond appalled” by the condition of the buildings and grounds at Port Angeles High School.

If and when a bond measure to build a new school comes forward, Clemens hopes to spread the word about the work teachers and students are doing in the district.

“It’s time to invest in our kids,” she said.

More in News

Hilary Soderling of Kirkland, left, and her mother, Lou Ann Soderling of Port Angeles, participate in Saturday’s rally at the Clallam County Courthouse. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Overturning Roe v. Wade draws protests

Rally participants: Decision doesn’t represent majority

Bruce Colfax was one of many Makah who worked at the Ozette excavation that ran for 11 years starting in 1970. Colfax, an artist whose wood carvings, sculpture and prints belong in private and public collections across the country, is a former member of the Makah Cultural & Research Center board of trustees whose role it is to protect the artifacts found at the site. (Paula Hunt/Peninsula Daily News)
Cultural, research center celebrates 43rd anniversary

Ozette village artifacts preserved after excavation

Churches seek household items for Ukrainian refugees

Collection drives to be conducted for kits

OlyCAP theft forces rescheduling of food deliveries

Distribution center trucks damaged

Weekly flight operations scheduled

There will be field carrier landing practice operations for aircraft… Continue reading

Gov. Inslee seeks abortion rights amendment to state constitution

Says Washington won’t aid investigation from other states

Lawsuit filed against Washington State Patrol official over breath test machines

A lawsuit filed against the Washington State Patrol official responsible… Continue reading

Best of the Peninsula.
Vote now for Best of the Peninsula

It’s time again to vote for the Best of the Peninsula. Now… Continue reading

Most Read