A story of service, by Americorps School Farmer Alyssa Stewart

Happy AmeriCorps Month!  Common Threads feels very fortunate indeed to have 13 fabulous AmeriCorps service members helping to grow good eaters across Whatcom County. These are smart, passionate, creative young people who have gifted our community with 10.5 months of their lives. For the remainder of this month, we’ll be celebrating our service members by featuring a few of the stories they have written about what AmeriCorps service has meant to them. Thank You, AmeriCorps Team!

A story of service, by Americorps School Farmer Alyssa Stewart

My name’s Alyssa Stewart, and I am a Common Threads AmeriCorps School Farmer. I serve at a couple elementary schools in Whatcom County, connecting kids with healthy foods in their classrooms and in their school gardens.

Birchwood Elementary School fifth graders have been gardening at school since they were kindergarteners. In their final year at Birchwood they put their skills to the test by becoming stewards of their very own garden beds. Pairs of students work as teams to tend to their beds every step of the way, including clearing, adding compost, planting, weeding, watering, mulching, and harvesting. I love seeing the students develop a sense of responsibility and ownership over their garden beds.

In the fall, I was delighted when fifth graders began coming into the garden at recess to check on their plants. Then, one day after they checked on their plants at recess, Miles asked me if there was anything he could do to help out in the garden. After I gave him the task of pulling out certain plants and adding them to the compost, about five other students asked if they could help us too. We all got some good garden work done and had fun. To my surprise, these fifth graders came back the next day, and, again, they spent their recess helping me in the garden. They continued to come back and choose to spend their recess time in the garden.

Seeing students choose to spend their recess time in their school garden reminds me of the difference I am making in the lives of these students. I am creating a space in the garden for them to learn responsibility, connect with nature, and enjoy some solitude. Seeing students who may struggle in a regular classroom setting flourish in the garden and even choose to spend extra time in the garden at recess shows me that our programs are especially valuable to students who learn best through experiential education.