• Principal Kirsten Copeland and students cut the ribbon on their new garden
  • Students view the raised planter beds in their new garden at Washington Elementary
  • Students view the raised planter beds in their new garden at Washington Elementary
  • Sign displaying Washington Elementary's school garden donors; one of the students who helped plan the garden

It started out as a persuasive writing assignment in Arantxa Kovis’ fifth-grade class last November. The prompt: What would make Washington Elementary School better?

For the students, the answer was a school garden. “I thought it was just a topic we were going to do, but then it actually came into reality,” said fifth-grader Cristal Gonzales Galindo. The fifth-graders brought their rhetorical skills to bear on their principal, Kirsten Copeland, who approved the idea to move forward.

Over the next five months, a planning committee led by teacher Melissa Hendy developed the vision for the garden, located facing East 32nd Street. On a Saturday in March, students, staff members, volunteers, donors, Rose Village neighborhood members and Clark County community partners began the work of installing 13 raised garden beds—one for each class. The onsite Boys & Girls Club, which will help maintain the garden during the summer, also has a dedicated bed.

The students plan to grow onions, leeks, peas, broccoli, tomatoes and other vegetables and fruits. “The best part of having a garden is students can eat what they grow,” said fifth-grader Michelle Tuttolomondo.

The entire school gathered on April 20 for a ribbon cutting. Principal Copeland acknowledged the possibility for hands-on learning and teamwork through caring for the garden. “We want to create passion for furthering knowledge of the natural world,” he said.

After the ribbon cutting, every student placed a planter stick with their name in their class’s bed—a symbol of the learning that will take root in the coming months and years.

According to the students, the garden and their involvement with it are far from over. Several of the fifth-graders plan to expand the garden and return to Washington to care for it. Said fifth-grader Colten Lumsden, “It feels really good to leave something behind when you go to middle school.”