Boy Scouts and adult helpers scurried in front of Payson Elementary School Saturday morning, building square foot garden frames before the sun gained too much ferocity.
Ilyas Sekandari, a burly 15-year-old wearing an electric yellow shirt, organized the day as part of his quest to attain the status of Eagle Scout. His mother, Tracy, proudly helped organize the day’s project.
“It’s really great,” she said. “I’d rather see my kids out here doing this kind of stuff than sitting here doing nothing.”
Ilyas said he ran into PES teacher Jodi Lorenz at a science fair he attended with his sister, and Lorenz told him of her efforts to start a square foot gardening project at the school.
Lorenz has big dreams — she wants to one day allow families to garden their own square foots and start a community garden on what was a vacant square of dirt in front of the elementary school.
Lorenz’s students will soon start seeds in plastic cups indoors, and then transplant the seedlings outside later. Although fall is quickly approaching, Lorenz said the students could grow hardy crops like lettuce, spinach, broccoli or cauliflower.
Learning how to garden conveys great lessons, Lorenz said. “Kids develop a sense of wonder — take a seed and turn it into an eggplant? That’s pretty incredible.”
To start, nine PES teachers representing fifth-grade, fourth-grade, special education and kindergarten asked for garden frames. Once finished, rope will cordon off the frames into square foot sections, and each older child will receive a section of his own to plant. Children in younger classes will team up and share square feet.
Children will learn about crops, soil and what it means to care for a growing organism. They can measure water and weigh crops.
“There’s a lot of potential for science (and) math,” said Lorenz, who teaches fourth-grade.
The project morphed quickly from possibility to probability.
After Ilyas’ initial encounter with Lorenz, he checked out Lorenz’s own square foot garden to get an idea of the project’s scope.
He was a wannabe Eagle Scout looking for a person to help and Lorenz had a project needing a push in the right direction.
In a prime example of the resourcefulness of Scouts, Ilyas said he gathered the Scouts to help just the night before. All he had to do was make some phone calls, and about seven smaller boys emerged ready to help. So did three adult Scout leaders, two PES staffers and seven family members of Ilyas.
Ilyas also solicited donations from local businesses, including David Daily of David Daily Construction, who helped cut lumber and construct the boxes.
Lorenz said Ilyas also raised $300 for the project, and told Lorenz to use the money for seeds and other associated expenses.
“What impressed me the most with this was Ilyas’ leadership,” said Lorenz. “Here’s a project developed by kids — certainly adults were involved,” but kids organized the entire thing.
“These Boy Scouts — there’s certainly other things they could be doing on a Saturday morning,” Lorenz added.