Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weyanoke students have green thumbs

Weyanoke students show off their sweet potatoes
Students at Weyanoke Elementary School learned about the wonders of gardening when they grew 55 sweet potatoes from a single neglected potato that kindergarten teacher Ellen Crutchley found in her pantry last year.

The old potato had grown eyes and tiny leaves, so she put in water and placed it on the classroom window sill. Within a few weeks, the potato grew a vine several feet long with more leaves.

Weyanoke kids peeling their potatoes
Crutchley got permission to plant it outdoors behind the school and, during the spring, took her class out to weed and water it. It continued to grow and, when everyone arrived for the new school year, the plant was still growing. Students continued to take care of it and purple flowers began to sprout. When the weather began to get colder, Crutchley and her students harvested the plant and found more than 55 potatoes, the largest of which weighed two and a-half pounds.

“We shared them with the other kindergarten and first-grade classes, since many of the first-graders had helped in the spring with the weeding and watering,” Crutchley says. Each class got about five good-sized spuds. “My class washed our potatoes with toothbrushes and then peeled them. I sliced and sautéed them in oil. Everyone ate several little slices and loved them.”

Some of the other teachers baked or fried them, and one teacher made mashed sweet potatoes. A first-grade teacher had her students observe slices under a magnifying glass. “It was a wonderful, magical experience,” says Crutchley. She plans to put together a book about the sweet potato garden.

This year, as part of their service learning project, all five kindergarten classes will plant, care for,  and harvest a garden with different vegetables to observe how different plants grow.

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