Student teachers and Glenside elementary school children build garden

Student teachers from Penn State Berks and elementary school students at Glenside Elementary School will see the fruit of their labors this Saturday, May 3, 2014, when the garden project they have worked so hard to revitalize is unveiled during a special Garden Party from 2?4 p.m. at the elementary school. This event is free and open to the public.

The seeds of the idea were sown in the form of a class assignment: Penn State Berks student teachers were asked to develop a project that they could give their elementary school students to make a difference in their elementary school. Senior Childhood and Early Elementary Education majors Melissa Sauer and April Moore put their heads together and the idea of revitalizing the garden at Glenside Elementary School took root. The Junior League of Reading had originally established the garden at the elementary school a few years earlier.

But the two student teachers didn?t stop there. They were so excited that they approached their professor, Dr. Jessica Schocker, Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education and Women's Studies, about making their Social Studies Methods class project a reality. Both Sauer and Moore were already student teaching at Glenside and were more than willing to volunteer their time and talent to see the project through.

Schocker approached Melissa Fisher, principal of Glenside Elementary School and Penn State alumna, and she enthusiastically agreed to the garden project.

The one thing Sauer and Moore did not have was expertise in agriculture. This is where Dr. Mahsa Kazempour, Assistant Professor of Science Education, and her Biology class got involved. The Biology students supported the garden project as part of their service learning. Approximately 15 Biology students have been helping Sauer and Moore with the garden while learning about environmental education.

In addition, Penn State Berks sophomore Agricultural Science major Alex Burghardt is working on this project as Schocker?s student in Educational Psychology as an honors option. Schocker connected him with Sauer and Moore so he could help to meet his honors requirements through service-based research while helping to advise them about what flowers and vegetables to plant in the garden.

In the meantime, Schocker applied for and received funding from the college?s Beaver Community Service Endowment to cover the cost of materials and supplies for the garden project.

Soon, the garden project took on a life of its own as more students ? and parents ?wanted to get involved. Kindergarten students were busy painting stones, while first-graders were painting birdhouses, and third-graders were painting tires and planting seeds, beans, and flowers.

How has this project benefitted the students of Glenside Elementary School? According to Sauer, ?Some of the shyest, most withdrawn students are the most involved in the garden.?

?It?s meaningful for the students to have something to do, that they care about and are engaged,? she added.

After school and during some weekends in April (weather permitting), the elementary school children, parents, student teachers, Schocker, and Fisher could be found working on the garden project.

All their hard work has planted the seeds of inspiration in the next generation.