Meeker’s garden grows vegetables and community
Meeker Garden

Hidden behind the kitchen loading zone and a concrete wall at Meeker Middle School, is a corner bursting with life. Tomatoes ripen in the sun. Raised garden beds host pumpkins and lemon cucumber, and the concrete wall provide cover for shading-loving vegetables.

"With how the garden is situated it actually creates three micro-climates," explains volunteer and Washington State University Master Gardener Jim Cox. "It is wonderful for the educational process."

In September Meeker celebrated its garden with a ribbon-cutting ceremony; students, parents, community volunteers and partners, district leadership, local businesses, and Tacoma Mayor, Victoria Woodards attended.

"Look at all the people here," said sixth-grade student Vanessa Froes. "This feels like a really big deal."

The garden space hasn't ever seen this much activity. Meeker Special Education teacher, Christiane Montequin's classroom windows look out into the garden area, and last fall space was barren and neglected.

"We could see weeds and a concrete wall, it was kind of depressing," Montequin said.

Montequin wanted to transform the space into a garden for students. She thought it would be especially beneficial for her autism/developmental students. She wasn't sure where or how to start, so she shared her idea with Meeker parent, Jewel Ocariz. Together they began to shop their plan to community partners and school leadership.

The garden project's first big break came from a $2,000 Teacher Impact Grant from the Foundation for Tacoma Students. "This would not have been possible without the grant from the foundation," said Montequin.

With the "seed" money from the Teacher Impact Grant, Montequin and Ocariz were able to purchase initial materials, and help from the community and donations continued to roll in. "Not one person said 'no,' at every turn people and companies donated time and resources to make this happen," Ocariz said.

Additional monetary and in-kind donations came from Schnitzer Steel, Northshore Ace Hardware, Northeast Tacoma's Healthy Kid's Coalition, Seattle/Tacoma Box Company, and Meeker's PTA. Student volunteers in Meeker's Exploring Technology Career and Technical Education class built raised wooden beds, Boys Scout Pack 398 installed an irrigation system, and volunteers from WSU's Master Gardener program provided guidance.

Meeker harvested an estimated 300 pounds of produce at the end of summer, with everything donated to the Nourish Food Bank in Tacoma. During the 2019-2020 school year, the school plans to donate some of the produce to Northeast Tacoma's Healthy Kid's Coalition, which provides backpacks of food for students who need it. The Meeker Garden Club meets weekly with WSU Master Gardeners and students from Montequin's autism developmental classroom care for the garden during the week.

Montequin loves seeing her autism developmental students being a part of the broader school community. "I didn't want to just be an isolated, self-contained classroom. I wanted my students to be in the Meeker community as much as possible."

For Orcariz and Montequin, the garden is just getting started. Soon students will harvest, then plant fall crops. Meeker science teachers can use the garden for labs, and art teachers see the potential for their students to create sculptures or murals.

"I get so excited when I talk about this garden and when I see everything growing because I know it's going back into our local community," said Orcariz. "I just can't stop smiling."



Media Contact
Dan Voelpel, Executive Director of Communications | 253-571-1015 | dvoelpe@tacoma.k12.wa.us

About Tacoma Schools
Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...

 


Media Contact

Dan Voelpel, Executive Director of Communications | 253-571-1015 | dvoelpe@tacoma.k12.wa.us

About Tacoma Schools

Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...


 

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