Albert Sanders teaches preschool and the Saturday morning classes at Adams Elementary. In partnership with Connie Myers, from Washington University, Albert leads the school garden, Sun Patch Garden at Adams. This past summer, Albert was selected as one of the Missouri Regional Teachers of the Year for 2018-2019. They work with the students, volunteers, and community to create a space that everyone enjoys, utilizes, and are proud to be a part of.
The Sun Patch Garden has a variety of annual and perennial vegetable, flower, and fruit beds. The Saturday School at Adams – led by Albert and Connie – includes “Rooted in STEM” classes, where students are able to make scientific connections to the garden. This past spring, the students built a geodesic dome greenhouse to start seedlings. The greenhouse looks like a much smaller version of the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Climatron! The greenhouse extends the growing season into the winter, so they can grow more produce for the school and community.
In addition to Saturday School lessons, the garden is used as an outdoor classroom by Albert and other teachers at Adam’s Elementary. Albert’s preschoolers help out with the planting and celebrated Halloween with a Pumpkin Patch Hunt (check out the garden’s Facebook page to see the adorable photos!). Throughout the year, Adam’s teachers have access to produce from a tower garden and are encouraged to incorporate it into the classroom. Parents of Adam’s Elementary students are also welcome to the produce.
With the help of Adam’s teachers and a team of Washington University volunteers (and of course, Albert and Connie), the Sun Patch Garden is maintained throughout the summer and school year. They hold monthly work days on Saturdays (even in the winter!) that are open to the public and gardeners of all levels. They recently set up a rain barrel irrigation system to make summer maintenance easier – Albert shared how to install a rain barrel irrigation at the Gateway Greening Community Agriculture Conference this past February!
Albert’s favorite memory in the garden is the first harvest of lettuce with the Rooted in STEM students. They grew lettuce, carrots, and radishes and had a salad party! Connie enjoys seeing the students’ smiles and a sense of accomplishment as plants grow and are harvested throughout the year. Connie says, “It inspires me to see the students share what they have learned with other students and proudly show their friends and parents, explaining in great detail what they have done in the garden.”
Albert and Connie’s collaboration and teamwork is undoubtedly a huge part of their success. Both are passionate about working with the students in the garden and making an impact in their community. They do acknowledge the need for “support from the administration and staff, and for them to believe in the importance of the school garden.” Perhaps, what the Sun Patch Garden can teach other school gardeners is that in order to have a thriving garden, the most important thing you need is a strong foundation!