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Kilby Shores garden helps teach students valuable lessons

Students are getting their hands dirty at Kilby Shores Elementary School.

For Earth Day, the school planted a garden as part of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community’s community garden project.

“The students are always eager to work in the garden,” said Suzie Stephenson, a teacher’s assistant at Kilby Shores. “There are so many great things about having the garden.”

The school’s garden is at least the fourth community garden aided by the project with the others being located at Holland Baptist Church, East Suffolk Community Center and Chorey Park.

Zucchini, squash, okra, banana pepper, green pepper, tomato, watermelon and string bean were among the items planted in the garden on April 22. The pre-school classes joined in by planting marigolds around the outside of the garden to help better protect it from insects.

“We’ve only gotten a few vegetables so far, but the squash, zucchini and tomatoes are beginning to ripen,” Stephenson said.

Once harvested, the vegetables will be donated to the Nub Jones Assisted Living Facility and ForKids.

“We want to teach the students about helping out in their community,” Stephenson said. “It’s teaching them that value and that we need to give back. There are so many less fortunate, and we need to help those in need.”

While giving back to the community is an important lesson to learn at an early age, there have also been some other benefits to the gardens.

“The children are learning how to work cooperatively and respect others to help get a job done,” Stephenson said. “Our talented art students even helped out and made scarecrows to help keep critters out.”

Besides esoteric values, the work in the dirt also has some more basic lessons in store for the children.

“Many of the children hadn’t ever worked in a garden before,” Stephenson said. “This shows them basic life skills and that if they need to we can help ourselves and plant our own food, if need be.”

Students are responsible for maintaining the garden, weeding, watering and harvesting.

Helping them are mentors from the Eastern Virginia Medical School’s Old Dominion University Graduate Public Health program. During the summer, Pack 25 and Venture Crew 25 of the Boy Scouts will help maintain the garden.