Munger Hill flower garden a hands-on project for students

June 7, 2023 | Mike Lydick

Munger Hill School third grade teacher Katherine Milos holds a gladiolus plant while talking with her class and a first-grade class about planting it and several other flowering plants in two planters at the school. She is flanked by Jennifer Kubic, right, a first-grade teacher at the school, and Greg and Kelly Freeman, with their son Beckett, a kindergartner at the school. The Freemans donated two metal planters and worked with a local company to provide soil for them.
Reminder Publishing photos by Mike Lydick

WESTFIELD — Two classes at Munger Hill Elementary School and their teachers recently collaborated on a hands-on learning project that showed them the fun of planting a garden filled with a variety of flowering plants, many of which were started from seeds in their classrooms.

The idea for planting flowers came following a visit by a group of Westfield National Honor Society students who made a presentation on Earth Day to Katherine Milos’ third grade class. Students also learned about pollination and how plants grow as part of their science unit and read a biography about Will Allen, an urban farmer in Milwaukee.

Her students later planted some gladiolus bulbs that they began caring for in the classroom. At around the same time, first graders in Jennifer Kubic’s class were learning about plants and their parts after watching an online tutorial from Rooted Flowers farm in Feeding Hills.

The tutorial videos demonstrated the entire process of planting a thriving cut flower garden — from sowing seeds to planting and transplanting. The farm also gifts starter seed kits to classrooms.

After Milos and Kubic discussed what their students were learning about flowers and gardens, Milos decided to order a free seed kit for her class and collaborate with Kubic to start a flower garden with their students.

The kit includes everything needed to grow flowers: 100% certified organic potting soil, specialty cut flower seeds, containers, labels, instructional guides, garden designs and access to a virtual classroom.

The only thing not provided was a sunny location and a place to transplant the flowers once they started growing. The school provided a location near its entrance and Kubic reached out to a parent whose family business has helped the school with other projects.

Kelly Freeman, project manager for Erwin Electrical Services, donated two 3- by 6-foot raised metal planters. Her husband Greg, who works for Westfield Gas & Electric, coordinated with his team to deliver a truckload of soil donated by Westfield-based J.L. Raymaakers and Sons, a construction services company. The total cost of the donated material was $600.

“We enjoy being involved with projects at Munger Hill and we were honored when Jen reached out to us to partner with her on this project,” said Freeman, who has three children attending the school. “I’m regularly at the school, spending time in classrooms, so the teachers know how to reach me when these needs arise.”

On May 25, the two classes, with assistance from students at Westfield Technical Academy, did a celebratory planting of both flower sprouts grown at Munger Hill as well as mature plants that WTA students had grown. With two planters, each class worked as a group and took turns digging holes and planting flowers.

“Our students were very excited after planting, doing a lot of talking about the young students they met,” said Vicki-Lynn Torro, WTA horticulture technology instructor. “They were a bit shy when we first got there. However, most warmed up and seemed to enjoy the activity.”

Munger Hill youngsters also were excited about planting the garden. Their favorite part was digging and getting their hands dirty. But they are looking forward to seeing the flowers grow before they leave for the summer break.

“It will be great to see the flowers get big and bright. I can’t wait to see the sunflowers,” said first grader Cooper Csekorvsky, 7. “It was so much fun to be outside in the sun.”

Lennox Carmichael, 9, a third grader, said he was surprised at how many flowers they planted. “We had a lot of flowers, so everyone had some to plant. Now that I know more about flowers, I might plant a garden at home,” he said.

First grader Addison Daley, 7, is looking forward to helping the plants grow by watering them. “I want them to get big and make the school look more beautiful,” she said.

While Kubic plans to go to the school weekly during the summer break to check on the garden, she’s also sending out a sign-up sheet to Munger Hill families to ask for help to water the garden. Flowers that soon will be blooming in the raised garden beds include sunflowers, celosia, marigolds, zinnias, gladiolus and cosmos.

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