By Jeff Guy

Newton Kansan

GOESSEL - Eager first graders from Barb Goering's class at Goessel Elementary picked ripened,

dirt-covered carrots and tomatoes that had grown from seeds they, themselves, planted

in a garden outside the school.

Each grade from K through 5 has its own section of the school garden. Pam Abrahamson, coordinator of the school's garden project, guides the kids in their horticultural activity.

After around 20 minutes, the first-graders walked back into school, carrying buckets

full of pickings ready for the school kitchen and later to be served with their

lunches in the cafeteria.

"We are a rural school, so we focus a lot on rural life and rural education," said John

Fast, Goessel Elementary principal. "This is our way of helping students understand

their connection to the earth -- you might say our dependence on the earth."

There has been a plentiful supply of fresh produce making its way from the garden to

the kitchen: carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, honeydew, sweet potatoes, lettuce, kohlrabi...

Then there is the cantaloupe -- more than 80 pounds of it, the most students have grown

in the three years since Goessel Elementary started its gardening project.

"Most students don't understand where their food comes from," said Fast. "This is hands-on

 learning to help them appreciate hard work, all the planting that goes into putting

their food together."

Students also learn such things as teamwork and healthy eating. They get exposure to the outdoors that many

would not otherwise get.

When the seeds are planted, some children have difficulty focusing, Abrahams said. Their attention

perks up, however, when they see the plants harvested and they experience the fruits

of their labor. There's excitement when they see the foods in their lunch.

"In a world of instant gratification, this teaches some patience," Arahams said.