Lincoln Northeast students create unity through garden beds

To the east of Lincoln Northeast High School are four garden beds.
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 10:40 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Lincoln Northeast High School students are coming together through gardening. Some of them are new to the United States and they were inspired to do this after reading a book that’s all about unity.

To the east of Lincoln Northeast High School are four garden beds. The goal is to provide a sense of unity for students from other countries and help an area of Lincoln that’s considered a food desert.

Dozens of students spent the day Wednesday planting, watering and raking. English Language Learners, or ELL, students came up with the idea last year after reading Seedfolks, a novella by Paul Fleischmann. It’s a book about immigrants from different countries who transformed a vacant lot into a community garden.

For ELL students, English isn’t their main language. Vinus Sarwari has been in Nebraska for almost 6 years, but she’s from Afghanistan. Adriana Juarez came from El Salvador two years ago during the pandemic.

“I’m very proud of my teachers for letting us do this,” Vinus Sarwari, 9th grader at Lincoln Northeast said. “I met new people, and I feel more joy coming to school.”

“Each one of us is from a different country and we have different cultures,” Adriana Juarez, 9th grader at Lincoln Northeast said. “My grandpas were farmers.”

The project includes two flower gardens and two for produce and they have signs displayed on the front saying “Welcome” in different languages. One of the main crops grown should come as no surprise.

“Nebraskan style sweet corn,” Kiegon Meyers, 9th grader at Lincoln Northeast said. “It’s going to be the golden standard in our garden.”

Members of the school’s garden club are helping alongside ELL students. Plus, biology students are benefiting from this hands-on learning experience. The garden club will help tend to the plants this summer. The plan is to have a farmers market for students and those in the surrounding neighborhood to benefit from locally grown produce.

Civic Nebraska’s Community Learning Center at Northeast teamed with the students to bring a similar project to the school for the benefit of the community. ELL students designed the beds in their classes, and have planned and designed what will be in each bed. In addition to the garden’s neighborhood- and community-building aspects, students are examining how plants and ecosystems work together and are gaining insight into pollination, composting, and germination.

Several community partners have joined the effort, including a University of Nebraska focus program at Northeast that prepares students in the areas of food, energy, water, and societal systems. The Kiwanis of Northeast Lincoln also has donated significant labor and resources toward building the corrugated metal beds.

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