Peppers, tomatoes, beans and other plants are flourishing this summer in the Tremont Elementary School community garden, which features 10 raised garden beds.

Peppers, tomatoes, beans and other plants are flourishing this summer in the Tremont Elementary School community garden, which features 10 raised garden beds.

Third-grade teacher Pam Bergen said the garden began in spring 2010, when the school had its first Tremont Garden Days.

"Two weekends were planned for the construction of eight beds, a compost area and all-around school grounds beautification," Bergen said. "Families and community members helped our small committee out with these tasks."

Bergen and colleague Michelle Persichetti brainstormed the idea of incorporating a school garden as part of their service learning instruction research.

They received a grant from the Upper Arlington Education Foundation for $1,500 and a service-learning mini-grant for $500.

Bergen said they added two cold frames this year to help extend the growing season, which brought the number of garden beds available to 10.

"Upper Arlington senior (graduate) Ben Mastruserio built them for us for his Eagle Scout and capstone project," Bergen said.

Now that the garden is in its third year, Bergen said she asked interested teachers to plant whatever their students wanted to plant.

"We have quite a variety planted right now, including bok choi, eggplant, birdhouse gourds, sturdy greens, onions, peppers, tomatoes, beans and much more," she said. "My class planted butterfly-attracting plants last fall that have bloomed beautifully this spring. We released our butterflies over the bed this year."

Volunteer teachers and families care for the garden over the summer.

"Our master gardener parent, Alex Borstad, visits the garden each week and assigns jobs to the volunteers for harvesting, care of the compost, weeding and watering," she said.

Bergen said teachers use the garden in a variety ways in order to fit it into curriculum requirements.

"Students write poems about the garden, take digital photos as a way to tell stories, find the perimeter and area of the beds and study the needs of plants and the interrelationships between plants, humans and animals," she said. "Students also study plant growing cycles, hunger and food security, composting, vermicomposting with our worm bin and organic means of fertilizing and pest control."

She said students also learn to cook using vegetables from the garden.

"A visiting author, Ron Hirschi, based his sessions with our kiddos in our garden," she said.

Bergen said future goals include using the garden as a permanent learning lab across the elementary curriculum, partnering with other schools on projects, creating a mini-orchard, building a greenhouse/shed and establishing a garden club.

"We also want to continue a more permanent partnership with local food pantries and bring in experts to teach the children about local food and plant matters," she said.

Bergen said fresh produce from the garden is donated to families in need through the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

Anyone who wants to volunteer or donate funds for the garden may email Bergen at pbergen@uaschools.org or call the main office of Tremont Elementary School at 614-487-5170.

Upper Arlington City Schools' website, with a link to Tremont and the garden, is uaschools.org.