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MW - Crazy Horse School

Wanblee, South Dakota

Many hands build a beautiful and tasty garden

The garden at Crazy Horse School is so prolific—well-planned and executed—that the kids and volunteers who built it deserve every benefit it provided them. A grant from Whole Kids Foundation was put to exceptionally good, and delicious, use.

The expansive space, about 90 by 90 feet, contains four lumber-raised beds and three cinder-block raised beds. Recycled tired serve as vertical planters for potato towers. A drip irrigation system was installed for all of the raised beds as well as the corn rows. Dirt and manure was kindly donated by local ranchers. And the school purchased a compost tumbler, which makes nutrient-rich compost to fortify the soil.

In the classrooms the children tended to their grow stations, nurturing plant starts to be planted later out in the garden. "With some of the grant money, we bought supplies and built grow-light stations that were used to grow plant starts right in the classroom," says the Crazy Horse School garden team. "This year the students are using the grow light stations to perform various experiments on plants, seeds, and roots. This aspect of classroom integration allows the students to connect the basic concepts and principles of plant growth with the plants they will grow this year in the garden." 

Besides planting an enormous variety of vegetables and four grapevines, the children and volunteers planted a sizeable amount of fruit-bearing trees, which include "three apple trees, three plum trees, three chokecherry trees, two buffaloberry trees, and three cottonwood trees," says the garden team. "The choice of trees, with exception to the apple trees, were due to their cultural significance to the Lakota people, and are used for cultural education concerning identification, use, and preparation of each specific plant."

The school staff is proud of what's come of the garden project, but is especially grateful that they were successful first in getting their students into the garden and enjoying it. The youngsters were so enthusiastic and invested in the project, and loved the produce so much, that their teachers were genuinely touched.

"All of the children are amazed at the taste difference between fresh produce from the garden as opposed to produce bought at the store," the garden team says. "They also love growing plants in their classrooms, as the teachers reported that students were always very concerned about the health and well-being of the starter-plants they were growing."

During the summer months, a tireless group of volunteers tended to the garden, watering, weeding, and otherwise maintaining it. Their hard work was rewarded when the children came back to school and were thrilled at the harvest. "(The students) were greeted with a garden full of carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn, pumpkins, squash, and watermelon," the garden team says. "Upon harvesting produce, kitchen staff prepared the vegetables for children to eat at lunch. And they loved it!"

Many thanks go to the Pine Ridge Extension Office, National Relief Charities and Oglala Lakota College, and everyone who helped to make this garden a success.