Full bloom: Sixth graders finding leadership through gardening


Ginger Larson (6), Addison Leal (6), and Ella Cop (6) proudly inspect their harvests. The students produced all of these vegetables with their peers and guidance from Ms. Warner. In STARS class, the students learned about the impact that growing your own foods can have on the Earth. “Gardening makes me feel really good, because I feel like I’m doing something really good for the environment by growing new foods and by not having bad food,” Leal said.

The 6th grade gardens are blooming and full of vegetables that are ready for consumption. This can be attributed to Ms. Carey Warner, who has been working to let the sixth graders make an impact.

Becky Madrid (6) and Alej Gonzalez (6) pose with beets that they grew together. Students began the school year by pulling weeds from the garden beds, and then they grew the plants of their choice from seeds.“It’s fun, but you have to work hard, and you have to plant correctly to get your plants to grow correctly,” Madrid said. “All of the hard work that we did paid off.”

“As far as the green spaces in our campus go, they’re the leaders on our campus in that,” said Ms. Warner. “I think that’s neat, because since this is something we only do in sixth grade they’re not gonna have to wait until later like a lot of the things at this school. Gardening is a way for the students to have access. Students can feel like part of our community…This is a special part of our school to own.”

For the past four years, Ms. Warner has used gardening as a tool to teach students essential skills. Gardens have inspired lessons such as the sustainability project, in which students brainstorm ideas on how to reduce the carbon footprint of our school. Students participate in a plant sale each year to produce enough funds to buy gardening supplies for the sixth graders that will succeed them the following year.

Ella Cop (6) works to harvest leaf lettuce. Her group of 6th graders was assigned to plant in this plot together. The team decided what they wanted to grow in their garden in the Fall, they were given time to nourish their garden during some STARS class periods, and now the vegetables they planted are ripe enough to pick. “I really like gardening, because it’s nice to get outside for a change, and it’s really exciting when you go outside and you see that a lot of the seeds you’ve planted have all grown,” Cop said.

“There’s a lot of sisterhood that’s formed in having a garden group that you work on the whole year,” said Ms. Warner. “Sometimes I wish we could get outside more, but we also want to use the class as a way to address other leadership topics, study skills, and research skills. Gardening gives you good language to do a lot of that.”

Becky Madrid (6) holds the biggest beets she found when harvesting. Later in class, Madrid will be give the option to eat these vegetables along with others that she grew, and share them with her peers.“I have found you never see a sixth grader like a radish more than one she grew,” Ms. Warner stated. “It’s a way to introduce students to eating some vegetables that they might not have been open to eating before. In that way, It’s part of a good long term healthy and well balanced lifestyle choice.”


Addison Leal (6) and Ginger Larson (6) hold their beet harvests. The two sixth graders planted and worked together on the same garden plot. “Gardening makes me feel really happy about what I’m doing for the environment, by helping it. I’ve learned how to care for my plants and make sure that they don’t die,” Larson said.


Students examine the beets that they are gathering. The 6th graders were instructed on the benefits of growing their own food in their STARS classes, and then instructed on how to garden. “Gardening has changed my perspective on how important it is to grow vegetables of your own,” Cop (6) said.


Sixth graders collaborate to gather the beets they’ve grown. “I grew cilantro, radishes, carrots, and cabbage. It would make me feel proud [to sell plants at the plant sale], because people want to buy what we grew and what we planted,” Madrid (6) said.
Addison Leal (6) and Ginger Larson (6) collect ripe vegetables that they will later wash and eat. “We’re doing some background research right now about some basic environmental topics, and then what students are doing is saying how can we make our school more sustainable,” Ms. Warner said. “They’re thinking about how can we be leaders in our school in lessening our environmental footprint.”