The Olathe East High School Interpersonal Skills (IPS) class sees gardening as an integral part of their curriculum. The IPS program combines students with disabilities with peer mentors to learn social and other real-life skills. Hands-on gardening can provide lessons in science, math, cooking, communication and more.
The school partnered with the Kansas City Community Gardens about 5 years ago to create a schoolyard garden. They have four beds, including 2 raised beds to make gardening more accessible for students that use wheelchairs. One bed is devoted to a thriving strawberry patch and the other three rotate various leafy greens and vegetables twice a year.
One of the biggest events the Olathe East IPS program hosts every school year is their annual Thanksgiving feast for the entire school’s faculty and staff, as well as the IPS classes. All told, the feast feeds about 250 people. The schoolyard garden allows the student to showcase their hard work at the feast.
Last fall, the garden provided kale chips, a roasted root vegetable medley including potatoes, turnips and beets, honey-glazed rainbow carrots and a huge fresh salad with 3 types of lettuce, spinach, arugula, baby Swiss chard and carrots. All the dishes were well received by students and adults alike.
“Between the months of August and November and again from March to May, our IPS students are cultivating the garden,” said Mary Vanhooser, one of Olathe East’s four IPS teachers. “Whether weeding or watering, planting or harvesting, the students are engaged and actively working to help things grow and produce fantastic food.”
We love hearing what you’re up to, Olathe East IPS! It’s amazing to hear about all of the ways you incorporate students and the community into the garden, and especially all of the great recipes you make!