Contributing reporter: Jamie Saunders ’23
Flash back to 2018 in the courtyard of Bessie Weller Elementary School in Staunton. A team of MBU students, College of Education faculty, and Bessie Weller students and parents were hard at work building 20 raised garden beds and filling them with new soil.
It was the beginning of a new resource for local elementary schoolers where they could experience hands-on how to grow, harvest, and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.
Originally funded through a grant in the MBU Environment-Based Learning Program — part of which has now transitioned to a new online program called Authentic Learning and Leadership — the school garden was completed last year. Though the pandemic created roadblocks to fully engaging Bessie Weller students during the garden’s first official year, a new spring is right around the corner.
“I’m proud of this story, because it demonstrates how it takes a village to make good things happen,” said Tamra Willis, professor of education at MBU, who helped get the project off the ground and through several phases of development.
The school garden is truly a collaborative effort by the Staunton community, involving the administration of Bessie Weller and Staunton City Schools; Staunton-area teachers, students, parents; students and faculty from MBU’s College of Education; Project GROWS; the Allegheny Mountain Institute, and local businesses through providing consulting, discounts, and donations.