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Here at the International School of Indiana (ISI), we want our students to learn new skillsets for the future and to become well-rounded individuals with the desire to help others. One of the many ways we promote these values is through our ISI farm cooperative, an activity for our Lower School students where they maintain a greenhouse and a garden on our 49th St. campus. Even though Indianapolis is a city, we still want our students exposed to things like farming and agriculture, and this activity was the perfect hands-on experience to get them involved.
ISI parent Jeremiah White helped the Lower School start the farm cooperative last year. White grew up on a farm and has experience in the agricultural field, so when the idea of starting a greenhouse at ISI was mentioned, White jumped at the chance to help. He also made the suggestion to put in a garden next to the greenhouse, so the students could learn the entire gardening process from seed to harvest.
Work on the garden begins in the spring. ISI students plant seeds in the classroom, nurture the seedlings and then eventually transplant them into the garden. Students also help plant vegetables directly into the garden like potatoes, peas, and beans. In the fall, the students are able to harvest produce, like carrots, and actually eat them, giving the students a greater appreciation for the flavor of fresh vegetables. White also came up with a solution for maintaining the garden over the summer once teachers and students leave for break.
After several conversations with the Indianapolis Immigrant Welcome Center, White connected with five refugee immigrants who were very interested in helping maintain the garden over the summer. The garden flourished because of their help, and the refugees were able to get the first pick of the produce.
“Working with the refugees was a learning experience for myself and for them,” White said. “They wanted to learn about gardening in Indiana, and we wanted the ISI students to be able to meet people from all around the world. The partnership is in line with the overall ISI mission.”
In fact, due to the success of last year’s garden, hundreds of pounds of produce were donated to local food pantries and community kitchens around Indianapolis. Work on this year’s garden has already begun, and White hopes the program and the partnership with the Indianapolis Welcome Center will continue for years to come.
“I think the kids are so happy working in the garden, and they truly enjoy it,” White said. “I cherish watching them appreciate something that I really appreciate, and I know they’re learning great skills for the future.”