Community Skills students receive the opportunity to plant gardens


Christal Carcedo

Freshman Dan Nemec and junior Taylor Dolezal work on the plant garden created by Rachel Victor and Gregory Kirchhofer. Photo by Gregory Kirchhofer.
Rachel Victor’s students have been getting their hands dirty throughout the month of May, planting vegetables and plants native to MO for RBHS to enjoy.
Victor, a special education teacher at RBHS, applied for a $600 grant, sponsored by the Hawthorn Chapter of the Missouri Native Plant Society Oct. 28, 2013, with hopes of creating a vegetable garden.
“I started getting the idea last year because every day I walk into the side doors and I would see weeds and I was like, ‘Something needs to happen to this,’ so I talked to Jen Mast [the principal of RBHS] last year, and she said I could do something with them,” Victor said. “I was just going to do a flower garden and then [Science department chair] Melissa Wessel emailed me back in August and told me, ‘Hey, there’s this grant. Apply for it to see if you can get help with the garden’ and I did, and that’s how I got the grant.”
Dr. Glenn Pickett, a biology teacher who retired from RBHS, aided in providing the grant.
“I am a member of that club and help with awarding the grants. As a part of her project, which is to utilize the planter boxes on the northeast corner of RBHS, [Victor] will plant some native plant species, mostly flower plants that are perennials and should grow back each year in the future,” Pickett said. “Central to her project is to help her Community Skills students learn about gardens, growing flowers and vegetables.”
The vegetable garden will be across from the rain garden, which is in the Northeast parking lot of RBHS. The garden will have tomatoes, snow peas, brussels sprouts, cucumbers and more.
Victor plans to grow native Missourian plants so students who look at the garden will learn about Missouri’s primitive flora, she said. Victor’s class teamed up with science teacher Gregory Kirchhofer’s class to plant the vegetables throughout the month of May.
“I picked Kirchhofer’s class since it’s an environmental science class and they’re already doing this kind of stuff in their classroom,” Victor said. “I thought it would help expand their learning outside the classroom.”
Pickett said the planting of the vegetable garden is a fun, unique way to help the students learn skills they wouldn’t learn if they just read out of a textbook.
“Ms. Victor’s project, which is including the handicapped students in the Community Skills class, is to help her students’ plant vegetable seeds, or small vegetable plants, care for them, raise them up, harvest them and ultimately eat them. This activity will be a very good experience for her students,” Pickett said. “There is a lot of learning about gardening that can happen. There is a lot of learning about botany that could happen, depending on the skill or ability of the students. As a class project, it gives these exceptional students an opportunity to do something different, something that is a little unusual, and that no other students in the school get to participate in. That makes it special. And that is important for the students in the Community Skills classroom.”
Victor also said she believes her classes will benefit from working with the vegetable garden by taking care of the plants alongside the members of Kirchhofer’s class.
“I felt like it would be very beneficial to that class and for my class because we’re learning different types of skills,” Victor said. “Using the garden, like following multi-step instructions, will benefit my class. So it does benefit both classes.”
Pickett said he believes it not only benefits the students involved, but also RBHS as a whole.
“Does the project benefit every kid in the school? Obviously not. Does it make the culture of RBHS just a little richer because these students are doing an exemplary project that no one else gets to do and that the rest of the school population sees that happening? Yes, and that is good,” Pickett said. “Therefore, the whole school benefits.”
Victor will not only use the vegetables inside of her classroom, but will also sell them to students and teachers.
“My plan is after [the vegetables grow], I would like to sell some of the produce. We’re going to use them in my class to teach them how to harvest, how to clean and how to cook with it,” Victor said, “but I’m hoping there will be enough leftover so that I could sell to other teachers and then that money that we raise goes right back into buying more plants for the garden, so it just kind of replenishes itself.”
I’m hoping there will be enough leftover so that I could sell to other teachers and then that money that we raise goes right back into buying more plants for the garden, so it just kind of replenishes itself.
When school is finished Victor will care for the garden to make sure it will be ready for the next school year.
“When there’s no school I’ll be here keeping it up, so the vegetables will stay nice,” Victor said.
By Christal Carcedo
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