The Magic Ingredient

Hi, I’m Ariana. My Apple Corps position is with a program called the King County Food and Fitness Initiative. I work at White Center Heights and Roxhill Elementary Schools, in the southwest corner of Seattle. I help encourage healthy habits through a broad array of programs, including Safe Routes to School campaigns (where I get to collaborate with Will), staff wellness programming, Farm-to-School sourcing, and school gardening.

As the growing season comes upon us, I’ve been working with teachers, staff, and students at both schools to prepare their gardens for planting. We’ve been working on some serious garden renovations at Roxhill, so a couple weeks ago on a sunny afternoon I found myself with a pile of soil taller than me, more shovels and wheelbarrows than I could keep an eye on at once, and a big group of spontaneous garden volunteers.

I’ve worked in many gardens with many children, but I was newly impressed by the enthusiasm that greeted me that day. I started out with a few teachers and a few students in the City Year afterschool program. The group was really excited to be outside (did I mention it was sunny?), but even more excited to work hard, hands in the dirt, making something grow.

Roxhill has a fairly sizeable school garden, and a few teachers make great use of it, but there is no formal garden program so most kids don’t go out there. But in that group, over and over again, I heard, “I love gardening!” and “this is fun!” and “can we do this every day?” Even more surprising were the other kids, who stopped by on their way home from school. “How do I join the garden club?” they asked, even though there isn’t any garden club. “Can we help?”

I’m not sure what the magic ingredient is that takes gardening with kids from a great idea (cultivating a taste for healthy, fresh food through hands-on experience through the whole growing process) to something kids actually love. Some days it’s there, and some days keeping interest focused on the natural world is like pulling teeth. This day was magic, and we moved a lot of dirt.

Planting radishes at Roxhill


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