Learning the dirt on dirt in Eagle | VailDaily.com

Learning the dirt on dirt in Eagle

Katie Drucker
Eagle, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyMelissa Kirr, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens' supervisor, teaches a class of first graders in Brush Creek Elementary School's greenhouse in Eagle

EAGLE, Colorado ” Alianna Esparsen, a Brush Creek Elementary School second grader, stood in Eagle, Colorado by a classmate eating … a pansy.

“It tastes like celery,” she said with a smile. “Yummy.”

Esparsen and all the Brush Creek students are participating in a Betty Ford Alpine Gardens’ greenhouse program, a hands on ” and in Esparsen’s case a taste bud on ” learning experience.

Since December, Melissa Kirr, supervisor at Vail’s Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, has been teaching a three-session program for each grade in school’s greenhouse. The greenhouse was donated to Brush Creek Elementary School five years ago by Kevin Story, owner of Valley Greenhouse and the father of two students at the school.

Until this program was started, the greenhouse was used on occasion by some teachers for their own projects.

“The staff here started talking about our vision for the school and we agreed we wanted to provide a richer science experience for our students,” said Anne Heckman, principal at Brush Creek. “The Gardens sort of adopted us, providing us with a teacher to help develop a sense of local native plants and deepen our understanding of this incredible environment we live in.”

Among the topic taught to different grades: seeds, roots, shoots, plant parts, the life cycle of plants, soil, worms, deforestation, plant adaptations, pollination, growing vegetables, genetic modifications and endangered plant species.

So far the kids have enjoyed watering” or over-watering” plants and exploring the world of worms.

“I just love playing with worms. They are fun,” said Jackson Kelley, a second grader, “If you cut one in half they can make two. If you cut them again they will be dead.”

Although the main focus of this program is on plants, Kirr tries to make plant learning interdisciplinary. For example, kindergartners were shown how artists depict plants. Artwork by Georgio O’Keefe, Salvador Dali, Monet and other artists was displayed. The children then created their own abstract art.

“It is more interesting learning hands-on then from a book,” said Kirr.

Teacher Linda Verderber agrees.

“It has been an amazing program. I think the kids have learned a lot,” said Verderber. She says the hands-on activities have made the program a success. Verderber said its important for kids to appreciate their surroundings, nature, and plants.

In exchange for offering this program, plants are being grown in the greenhouse to plant in the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail’s Ford Park gardens, this summer.

“We needed more space. Most plants have been kept at a staff member’s house,” said Kirr. “It also creates an avenue to show kids what plants grow at the garden.”

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is paying for Kirr’s time and the school’s parent-teachers association gave money for set-up and pays the electric bill.

Kirr said if funding becomes available, she would like to see some kind of program at every elementary school in the valley.

“I like plants because they help us breathe and they help us live,” said Zach Dolan, a second grader, after completing the three-week program.

For more information, call 970-476-0103 or visit http://www.bettyfordalpinegardens.org.

Support Local Journalism