In the coming school year, Imlay City students will be fortunate to have a new “classroom” to explore. The school garden, currently flourishing on former tennis courts behind Weston Elementary School, is a grand community effort that has the potential to teach every student K-12 valuable academic and life lessons.

Avid gardener Scott Aldridge, his friends and family, Hyponex, Tractor Supply and school staff have partnered to create this impressive space that’s sure to be a bright spot for both staff and students when classes resume next month. The collection of raised beds feature an enormous variety of vegetables, fruit and flowers and certainly adds some variety to the school grounds landscape. Buildings, parking lots, open lawn and playgrounds are rather uniform from district to district so having a dedicated green space that’s constantly evolving in terms of the way it looks or what it’s producing is rather unique.

Proponents of school gardens note that these outdoor classrooms provide a hands on learning opportunity that’s actually low-tech. Since the pandemic has accelerated the presence of online learning, finding ways to teach and learn outside of a laptop provide a good counter balance.

Research proves that school gardens can be key in developing healthier nutritional habits among youth and that includes something as simple as trying new foods. A study by Columbia University showed that students who can participate in frequent hands on nutrition learning will eat up to three times more fruits and vegetables in their cafeterias, regardless of where that produce came from-either a school garden or outside vendor. Additionally, it’s understandable then that helping kids develop those healthy habits can make a different in their educational and social success too.

Imlay City Schools is fortunate to have such a dedicated volunteer in Aldridge. Despite some obstacles, he’s remained committed to making the gardens a success. We’re confident his enthusiasm for growing good food will spread among the school community and start a new learning legacy.