District community garden offers virtual programming

District+community+garden+offers+virtual+programming

Photo by Wes Nugteren

Blooming Heights is the heart of Columbia Heights’ agriculture and is used by many students throughout the district. Since 2010, the garden has proved its importance to the residents and students of Columbia Heights.

Blooming Heights is a schoolyard garden and outdoor classroom that can be found behind the district center. Mr. Wes Nugteren, Columbia Heights Public Schools’ agricultural specialist works with teachers across the district to get students out to the garden to engage in hands-on lessons related to gardening, nature and nutrition.

The garden can be used by any class and grade, from Pre-K to seniors at Columbia Heights High School. In the nicer months, there are classes taught outside, and in the colder ones, the information can be taught indoors. These sessions can be adapted for what a specific class curriculum is or based on a pre-developed curriculum about the garden. 

“We work with teachers to co-create curriculum for specific classes,” Nugteren said.  “For example, an elementary science specialist might bring their class to the garden to learn a lesson about habitats or a high school ceramics teacher might bring their class to the garden to learn where clay comes from.”

Aside from the classes that come and visit, the garden also has multiple programs that use it. Blooming Heights provides programming for high school ENCORE classes like Blooming Heights Garden to Table Cooking class, summer Adventure Club and Mini-Adventures, Early Childhood Family Education, Community Education, and occasional volunteer opportunities.

The food that is grown in the garden is used in numerous ways by the district. When school is in session, it is given to cooking classes, delivered to the district’s cafeterias, and in the summer, the food is sold at the Adventure Club farm stand as well as donated to local food shelf SACA. In a typical year, the garden is cared for by Nugteren and the classes that come to learn about the gardening process. 

Since distance learning has been implemented, there have needed to be some adaptations as to how the garden is used. Now that students have not been able to be out in the garden, Nugteren has worked to give a virtual learning experience on YouTube, offering videos on everything from container gardening and cooking videos, to regular Blooming Heights updates and tapping a maple tree. These videos are either meant for teachers to implement as part of their lessons or for students to watch them individually. 

Aside from the classes that come and visit the garden also has multiple programs that use it. Blooming Heights provides programming for high school ENCORE classes like the Blooming Heights Garden to Table Cooking class, summer Adventure Club and Mini-Adventures, Early Childhood Family Education, Community Education and occasional volunteer opportunities.

Blooming Heights is open to the public, so anyone can visit and enjoy the locally grown plants, trees, flowers and vegetables. For this summer, just make sure to wear a face mask.