New Albany first-graders recently learned they could grow vegetables and herbs in the winter using cold frames.
The cold frame, which is a box with a transparent lid that lets in sunshine and keeps out snow and some of the cold, was set up in January outside the K-1 elementary building.
"We planted at the worst possible time," joked Kate Thoma, the elementary educational technology learning coach. "It was when we came back from winter break."
The cold frames were built by the school's maintenance department during the break.
Sandra Willmore, the district's environmental services coordinator, said she purchased wood for the frames out of the environmental education budget.
The lids were made from windows recycled from the New Albany High School football stadium visitors' press box, which was being renovated.
Mulch for the gardens was donated.
Willmore said she did not have a total cost for the project, but cold frames purchased on the Internet cost $50 to $200.
Students chose what seeds to plant based on their research, and each of the 14 classes has its own garden in one of seven boxes.
"We planted carrots, lettuce, chives and mustard," said first-grader Isabeli Oliveira, who is in Sarah Cachat's class.
The seedlings grew in about six weeks and once they sprouted, the plants exceeded everyone's expectations.
"They did pretty good for our first year," Thoma said last week, looking at plants that are eight to 10 inches tall.
"The winter's been really cold and they've grown a ton since spring break," Cachat said. "They were only an inch tall before spring break."
First-grader Aryana Lovely, who also is in Cachat's class, said it was important for the sun to heat the gardens through the lids, which is something the first-graders wrote about in books they completed during the project.
Another of Cachat's students, Carter Hopkinson, said students had to water the plants at times and Cachat said the children learned about evaporation and condensation. Because condensation collected inside the box, the students didn't have to water the boxes that much.
Students also regularly monitored the temperatures of the gardens to make sure they stayed constant. Cachat said on one really cold winter day, the students registered 100-degree temperatures inside the cold frames.
Thoma said she wasn't concerned that the science principles would be too advanced for the students to learn.
"They can achieve anything that you set them up for success with," she said.
Because this is the first year for the project, no one was sure how the gardens would do. Thoma said teachers may prepare a salad lunch at the end of the year so students can eat the vegetables they grew.
During the celebration, students could also display the books they created detailing how they designed the cold frame boxes, planted seeds and tended the gardens.
Thoma said next school year, the students could participate in the New Albany Farmers Market, which was moved indoors from October to February this past season.