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Green space to increase agriculture at MITCH Charter School

Groundbreaking at MITCH in Tualatin marks beginning for adding more agriculture into the school's curriculum

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Communiy members gathered on Friday afternoon for the groundbreaking of MITCH Charter School's Frontier Garden. The green space will become a playing field and garden to be utilized come April. Students, educators, parents and community members gathered in the sun outside of MITCH Charter School in Tualatin on Friday afternoon, all to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the Frontier Garden.

Through a partnership with Frontier Communications, two-thirds of an acre of green space has been granted to the school, and it will be used both as a playing field and as a garden.

“When you attend a traditional public school, in all likelihood there will be open space and play equipment and outdoor activities that refresh the soul,” said MITCH Executive Director Melissa Meyer. “For us, our students have not had that opportunity since we’ve been in this location. They go outside, but it’s asphalt. This is a huge step forward for their well-being in every way.”

The school, located at 19550 S.W. 90th Court, is in an industrial area surrounded by buildings and asphalt. A focus on agriculture is part of the school’s charter, and the teachers have integrated gardening into their lessons where they can, but it’s been difficult without having a real space to dig into the earth. Steps were taken this school year to add in more agriculture, and Agricultural Fridays were introduced along with some innovative ways to assimilate nature into lesson plans. The goal moving forward is to integrate agriculture into lesson plans even more.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - MITCH seventh graders Riley Young and Nyleen Krieske gave tours of the Frontier Garden on Friday, and pointed out what the land would become.

“The garden allows (students) to immerse themselves in a type of practical learning that often is left out. The time of decompression and relaxation in the Frontier space will make the children happier and better students,” said Duncan Ketel, P.E. and Wellness Coordinator, and Garden Coordinator. “It is these feelings of freedom and peace which excite me, and in turn excite the students.”

At the groundbreaking event on Friday, the students were clearly excited about the prospects of having green space to run around on and having land on which to garden. After speeches by Meyer, Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden and Frontier General Manager Jeanne Danielson, middle schoolers led tours of the land, explained where everything would go and what they were most excited about.

“It’s going to be really fun because we’ve never really had a garden,” said 12-year-old Riley Young, a MITCH seventh grader.

“The dirt we’ve been gardening on is really hard, which makes it difficult,” added classmate Nyleen Krieske. “I like that (now) we can get outdoors, get fresh air and not be trapped in a building the whole time.”

The green space at Frontier is the closest available to the school, separated only by a small dirt mound and a fence. In coming weeks, a gate will be added so that students have easy access to the field. Some ground also needs to be leveled, so that it can be used as a true sports field. The goal is to have the land ready for full use by April, to plant crops and to have a harvest ready to eat by autumn.

“The land is beautiful but it’s vacant, and making it into something productive is amazing,” said Danielson. “I can’t think of a better fit. I’m just happy that we had the land and can allow them access to it.”

Once the garden is up and running, students will not only be able to learn about growing food and actively participate in the process, but the food will be given back to the school by being added to school meals.

“It’s helping get agriculture in the city and having it not all be industrial,” said Young. “All of the cement is awful and boring. But if we add green to the city, then that inspires people.”

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