Giving Garden entering second year

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 19, 2013

 Seventh-grader Tyler Butler helps dig a spot for eighth-grader Megan Naglich to plant a seedling in the garden at Jefferson Middle School June 11.

Seventh-grader Tyler Butler helps dig a spot for eighth-grader Megan Naglich to plant a seedling in the garden at Jefferson Middle School June 11.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Local students are getting their hands dirty in an effort to help the community with the fruits — and vegetables — of their labor.

Just days away from the end of the school year, a half dozen students at Jefferson Middle School stayed after the final bell to plant beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, onions, tomatoes and watermelon with their teachers from Project Science class, Lisa Beckman and Sarah Bowman.

After a summer of tending the garden — weeding, picking produce and making sure the new sprinklers keep everything healthy — the vegetables will be ready for the Community Giving Garden, a weekly stand outside the school in late August and September, staffed by members of the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores, where the produce is given away for free.

The stand was so popular, Bowman said, they ran out of produce in 2012.

“We didn’t know how it was going to go,” Beckman agreed.

Community members stepped up to help out, however, donating excess produce from their gardens to keep the vegetable stand going. Bowman said local gardeners are welcome to do that again and can email her at to find out when the stand will open in late summer.

“We ended up doing well last year because of the community support,” she said.

Now, the St. Clair Shores Beautification Committee is offering support and helping to get donations from local nurseries to help the 40 students get the garden off the ground for 2013.

Planting for this year’s garden — originally built as an Eagle Scout project by a former student — was designed by students. Those students, with their families, have signed up for one- to three-week chunks of the summer to come to the garden and weed and pick produce. Newly installed sprinklers should keep the garden growing during summer’s heat.

Eighth-grader Jenna Kochanski said she’s excited to come back over the summer to help out with her mom and a friend.

“It seems like fun. I like planting,” she said while putting seedlings in the ground June 11. “I like hands-on stuff. Especially when you provide for the community; it’s really good.”

With other students in her hydroponics and pond maintenance class, who have also been working on the garden, Kochanski said there has been a lot of work already to get to this point.

“We had to clean out the whole greenhouse,” she said, and change water every two weeks to get new nutrients to the plants in the hydroponics station. A broken valve in the hydroponics house slowed things down over the winter, but the station — donated by a Shelby Township supplier in 2012 — is back up and running.

“I’m excited to see all the projects we’ve done, how big the plants get,” said seventh-grader Tyler Butler. “It was kind of a lot of work. I’m hoping to take this class again.”

The students weren’t the only ones learning from the garden. Beckman said before last year, she had never gardened before.

Project Science is a semester-long elective class for students at Jefferson Middle School, she said.

“This is what kids choose to take,” she said. “We are always trying to do something new.”