Learning Gate Community School threw a garden party and invited its friends.
More than 80 parents, local garden club members and community leaders shared a luncheon feast in a glade beneath the branches of an ancient oak tree.
A short stroll away, fifth-graders guided lunch guests on a tour of the school’s working garden.
Kindergarteners through fifth-graders also entertained at the luncheon with songs about nature and Mother Earth.
The annual event, in its third year, brought the school family and the community together to take a peek at what Learning Gate is all about.
“It’s so nice to see people come into our world and see what we’re doing here,” said Principal Michelle Mason.
Learning Gate abides by the motto, “Nature is our best teacher,” and has received a national award for its EcoFest, held each year at Lowry Park Zoo.
“It’s kind of like a secret, a hidden jewel here,” said Michelle Northrup, marketing and parent involvement facilitator. “Our students work in the garden everyday. We do a lot of projects, based on hands-on learning.”
The charter school for kindergarten through sixth grade is tucked away in a wooded area off Hanna Road in Lutz. A school campus for seventh and eighth grades is on Lutz Lake Fern Road.
The school’s hands-on approach can help students build confidence.
“We provide an atmosphere where they are able to explore who they really are,” said Adam Wolford, assistant principal. “This is something that really sticks with them.”
Ten-year-olds Anna Mitchell and Emily Slean said they tend small gardens at home.
They said the school garden offers a fun way to learn.
“We don’t just have to look it up in a book,” Mitchell said.
“We’re always ready to get our hands dirty,” Slean said. Besides, she added, “I love the things that are eatable.”
The classmates gave luncheon guests the rundown on Ceylon spinach, which they explained has medicinal uses and also can be used in soups and salads.
Ten-year-olds Griffin Vazquez and Ezekiel Udozorh handed out samples of freshly brewed hibiscus tea to guests touring the garden. They also took turns giving a plant lesson on the hibiscus acetosella, which can be found in the Dominican Republic and Zambia, and can lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
“They see how the world works, how food is put on the table,” said Wolford.
Chayton Martin and Kiersten Stevens, also both 10, handed out mint leaves, which smell nice, but aren’t good to eat. The plant does have eatable tubers, however, they explained.
Ten-year-olds Alejandro Armstrong and Gabrielle Cruz drew a cool assignment on a warm day under a Jamaica cherry tree.
Evan Hill and Cole Vakil, both 10 years old, handed out Seminole pumpkin seeds. The pumpkin can be used in many recipes, they said.
“This is a really weird one – mac n’ cheese,” Hill said.
Ten-year-olds Kaylie Gagne and Skye Sharpe stood under the shade of a moringa tree, whose tiny leaves are filled with vitamins and make great additions to salads.
“It’s very healthy for you,” Gagne said.
D.J. Rivera and Jacob Koenig, both age 10, handled the “star fruit” tour.
Parents Jamie Meyer and Nicole Rametta sampled the sweet tasting fruit, cut into stars.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Rametta. “It gives the community members a chance to see how knowledgeable the kids are.”
Published November 9, 2016