Leadership Kitsap Plants a Seed

By Rachel Pritchett



A unique partnership between Armin Jahr Elementary, the city and volunteers has blossomed into a garden plot at the city’s new Blueberry Park, where students will learn about good food to put in their bodies.

And, boy, are the third- and fourth-graders in Scott and Suzanne Wisenburg’s classes, as well as those in Lorrie Wolle’s class, pumped at the prospect of getting out, down and dirty.

“We’re going to plant lettuce,” announced Brittany Green.

“It’s one of the biggest plots,” said Cyrah Bias of the school’s 24-by-17-foot space in the emerging community garden.

“First, I would like to say it’s an honor for Armin Jahr having their own garden,” young Geddy Knierim said of the plot that’s a straight shot from the back of the school through a trail that the kids are making nicer.

“They’re eager,” admitted Scott Wisenburg.

Leadership Kitsap, a nonprofit group that trains adults to become community volunteer leaders, is the instigator of the partnership that led to the public school garden. 

The city and its parks department have signed on, as have Master Gardeners from the Washington State University Extension Office, who will help keep the garden going over the summer.

The first-ever effort has been at almost no cost.

“That part really amazes me, how much you can do with a little cooperation,” said Marie Vila, a city employee who’s worked for many months on the project with Leadership Kitsap’s “Team Radicchio.”

Students now are preparing their garden, and a special public groundbreaking is slated for May 6.

After that, it’s all about the students experiencing the full circle of planting and growing food, putting healthy, vitamin-filled fresh produce into their bodies, and composting everything back into the soil.

They’ll find out about pollination, weeding, watering and much more.

And the circle will become complete as they start up again next year with a new crop of produce and a new crop of students. 

Team Radicchio has put together a set of lessons to go with the garden.

Like his students, Scott Wisenburg is thrilled about the cooperative effort, and that — finally — a school other than the affluent private ones is getting a garden classroom.

“It’s a great exposure and something our kids really need,” he said.

Armin Jahr students have a good start in connecting with the earth. Fourth-graders this year participated at a camp at IslandWood on Bainbridge Island, where they composted everything left on their plates after meals. 

And they also get fresh-produce snacks at school, thanks to a special program. 

They’ve even helped plant some wetlands at Blueberry Park.

Students spent Earth Day picking up litter on the trail leading to the garden. 

They want to make it nice, like those at IslandWood, Scott Wisenburg said.

So into their garden on this former blueberry farm go the kids from Armin Jahr.

“All those connections to help them have more enriching experiences and prepare them for life,” said Suzanne Wisenburg, whose students are next door to her husband’s.

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